What’s next for the Capitals after being eliminated from playoff contention?

Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin #8. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin #8. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

For the first time since 2014, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will not feature the Washington Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin and company have been longshots to reach the postseason for quite some time now, but on Tuesday night, a win for the Florida Panthers served as the final nail in the coffin.

With the Caps officially slated to watch the NHL’s tournament from home, their focus must shift to the future. Ovi and Nicklas Backstrom are now closer to 40 than they are to 30 and are now on the outside of the playoffs looking in, so what happens in Washington moving forward?

Is there still time for the Capitals to string together another deep run through the spring, or is this the beginning of the end in the nation’s capital?

What’s next for the Washington Capitals?

Looking ahead to next season, there doesn’t appear to be an immediate reason to panic in D.C. According to CapFriendly, all of Washington’s key players are locked up beyond the 2022-2023 season.

Ovechkin is under contract until 2026, which is important given that he is still playing at a high level. Other staples of the team, like Backstrom and John Carlson, are also signed for at least two more seasons.

The Capitals have also recently signed forward Dylan Strome and goaltender Darcy Kuemper to long-term deals, which tells me that they’re not quite ready to pack it in just yet.

With all of that said, the Caps are faced with an increasingly difficult Eastern Conference. Yes, the Boston Bruins are thriving in 2023, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are still fighting for their playoff streak, but young teams are beginning to take over the conference.

The New York Rangers made a run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2022, and the New Jersey Devils now look like a team that could be poised to do the same in 2023.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been dangerous for years, and the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres figure to be in the playoff mix moving forward as well. Even if the Capitals can be a competent team next season, there simply may not be enough space for them in the East.

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If I were the one making decisions in Washington, I would be preparing to make a big move or two to try to compete for a championship next season because how could you not with the core still playing well? It may not be enough, but the Caps are not yet a lost cause.