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The Capitals’ Cup Team: Where Are They Now?

With the Caps heading to Florida to face former teammate Brett Connolly for the first time since his departure, we thought a look at players departed from that Cup-winning 2018 team would be interesting.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Players come and players go. It’s a rule in professional team sports, and hockey is no exception. And when players swap out the home team jersey for some new threads, we might follow them for a short time... but eventually (for most of us, anyway) the desire to keep track of them fades away and we lose touch.

That is, until they are opponents to be rooted against.

With the Caps set to face their old pal Brett Connolly for the first time tomorrow night when they visit the Florida Panthers, it’s a good time to take a look at how he and the rest of the alumni from the Cup-winning team of 2018 have fared since departing the District.

Not bad as a group - so how are they doing individually?

Brett Connolly (Florida Panthers – 14 games, 5-5-10, plus-2)
It might be a surprise to Caps fans that Brett Connolly is this productive this early in his first season as a Panther after signing a four-year/$14 million deal in July. Last season in Washington, Connolly was 1-6-7, plus-1, in ten October games. The season before that it was 1-1-2, minus-5, in October. In his first season in Washington, in 2016-17, he had one goal and was plus-1 in four games. In other words, a quick starter he was not. But here he is, one game into November, and he is on a career-best pace in goals, assists, and points; has had two multi-point games, and has points in eight of the 14 games in which he has played.

Andre Burakovsky (Colorado Avalanche – 15 games, 4-5-9, even)
Andre Burakovsky was a victim of unmet expectations and salary numbers in Washington. After five seasons as a Capital, he just could not make any progress from being a somewhat inconsistent 25-35 point player with a lot of unrealized potential. The Caps’ salary cap issues left them little choice but to let Burakovsky test free agency, and he settled in Colorado with a one-year/$3.25 million “show me” contract. He started fast with the Avs, going 4-4-8, plus-4, in his first seven games with his new team, capped by a two-goal/three-point effort, including the game-tying goal in the third period, in a 5-4 overtime win against Florida on October 18th. Since then, though, he is 0-1-1, minus-4, in eight games through Tuesday.

Matt Niskanen (Philadelphia Flyers – 2-6-8, plus-4)
Matt Niskanen had four solid years in Washington after arriving as a free agent from Pittsburgh in 2014-15. He averaged 5-28-33, plus-15, over those four seasons and added another 20 points in 63 playoff games ending with a Stanley Cup in 2018. But he fell off some last season. He was 8-17-25 in 80 games, but he was a minus-3 and looked to be defensively suspect from time to time. At the age of 32, the Caps decided a change was needed and moved him to the Flyers for Radko Gudas in a defense-for-defense swap. He is the oldest defenseman to dress for the Flyers this season, a group of eight to dress so far that includes five under the age of 25. He has been solid nonetheless, second among defensemen in average time on ice, goals, and points. His contributions to date have mattered, the Flyers going 5-1-1 in games in which he recorded a point, 2-4-1 in the games in which he did not.

Jay Beagle (Vancouver Canucks – 15 games, 1-2-3, even)
Few players depart a club on as beloved terms as did Jay Beagle when he signed a four-year/$12 million contract with the Canucks after helping the Caps to a Stanley Cup in 2018. His was one of those, “hard work pays off” stories, an undrafted player who signs as a free agent, works his way through the system, spends parts of three seasons striving for a permanent spot in the lineup, finally does so only to have half his season wiped out with a concussion suffered in an early-season fight, but finally does win a permanent spot by doing the little things – playing defense, playing a checker’s role to give stars a breather, killing penalties, winning faceoffs. Still, he did record at least 15 points in each of his last four seasons as a Capital, not bad for a fourth liner.

He lost 35 games to injury in his first season with the Canucks last year, and he is a modest 1-2-3, even in 15 games so far this season, although he has come on recently after going his first seven games without a point, and Vancouver has not lost any of the eight games in which he skated at least 13 minutes (7-0-1). But he is still winning faceoffs – a career-best to date 62.3 percent through Tuesday.

Alex Chiasson (Edmonton Oilers – 13 games, 0-3-3, even)
Perhaps the least known of the Cup alumni for the Caps, he skated in 16 games for the Caps in that Cup run, going 1-1-2, even, although he did not dress for any of the games in the final. After the 2018 Cup final, Chiasson signed a two-year/$4.3 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers. It certainly seemed like a bargain last season when Chiasson almost doubled his previous career high in goals (13 with Dallas in 2013-14) with 22 goals and set a career high in points with 38 in 73 games. It was frustrating, though, in that the Oilers were just 9-8-3 in the 20 games in which he scored at least one goal. This season has been more of a struggle for the 29-year old. In 13 games he has only three assists and has yet to record his first goal as of Tuesday.

Philipp Grubauer (Colorado Avalanche – 11 games, 6-3-2, 2.80, .915)
“The Best Backup Goalie in the NHL” was what Philipp Grubauer could lay claim to in his last season with the Caps in 2017-18. So good, in fact, that he got the call over a slumping Braden Holtby to open the 2018 playoffs. He struggled in that role, stopping only 41 of 49 shots before being relieved in favor of Holtby for the third period of what would be a second consecutive overtime loss to open the first round against Columbus. Nevertheless, despite being a backup in almost all of his six seasons with the Caps, he finished his run here tenth in goalie wins in franchise history (43) and still has the best goal against average (2.29) and save percentage (.923) among the 30 goalies to play in at least 20 games in team history. It was enough to convince the Colorado Avalanche to offer, and for Grubauer to sign a three-year/$10 million deal in June 2018 after the Avs obtained him with Brooks Orpik in a trade for a second round draft pick. Grubauer toiled in primarily a backup role once more last season, playing second chair to Semyon Varlamov. He was still effective, though, going 18-9-5, 2.64, .917, with three shutouts in 37 games. He has slipped ever so slightly in the early going this season in the number one capacity (Varlamov now with the New York Islanders), going 6-3-2, 2.80, .915 in 11 games through Tuesday.

Special Mention: Marcus Johansson (Buffalo Sabres – 15 games, 4-5-9, plus-2)
Marcus Johansson deserves a special mention here. He last skated for the Caps in 2016-17, setting career highs in games played (82), goals (24), points (58), and plus-minus (plus-25). But he would be an “almost played for a Cup” player, traded to the New Jersey Devils in July 2017 for second and third round picks in the 2018 draft. It would be an important trade for the Caps, even if one did not suspect it at the time it was made. One of the draft picks obtained from New Jersey would later be dealt to Chicago for defenseman Michal Kempny, who was an important cog in the Caps’ Cup-winning squad in 2018 (the other pick yielded highly thought of defenseman Martin Fehervary). Johansson was later traded by the Devils to Boston in February 2019 for a pair of draft picks, and signed last July as a free agent by Buffalo. Johansson has been injury prone since leaving Washington, playing in only 87 of 162 games over two seasons coming into this one. He is another player who started quickly with his most recent team, going 3-2-5, plus-5, in his first six games with the Sabres. He has cooled off a bit lately, going 1-3-4, minus-3, in nine games through Tuesday.

The Caps Cup Alumni group has a healthy population, but it is not the only group of ex-Caps out there. Here is a list of others active in the 2019-20 season and where they stand with their current clubs.

Kevin Shattenkirk (Tampa Bay Lightning – 13 games, 4-6-10, plus-4)
After being a disappointment with Washington and the New York Rangers, he has been a pleasant surprise for Tampa Bay, leading the defense in goals and points while averaging 20:33 in ice time per game.

Mathieu Perreault (Winnipeg Jets – 16 games, 4-1-5, minus-6)
An underrated player with the Caps (33-37-70 points in 159 games with the Caps, he is in his fourth season with the Winnipeg Jets where he is ranked 13th on the all-time franchise list in goals (76), 12th in assists (125), and he is one of a dozen players in team history with at least 200 points with the club (201).

Mike Green (Detroit Red Wings – 14 games, 1-1-2, minus-7)
The only member of the original “Young Guns” playing in the league with another team, Mike “Game Over” Green, the franchise all-time leader in game-winning overtime goals by defensemen (eight) is on the back end of his career. After struggling with health issues last season, he seems to be a shadow of his former self as an offensive defenseman.

Nate Schmidt (Vegas Golden Knights – 4 games, 1-1-2, even)
Nate Schmidt is a Cup alumni of sorts, skating as an opponent of the Caps in that 2018 Stanley Cup final. One of the most good-humored players to come through these parts, he has come through a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug use policy to go 1-1-2, even, in four games. He is second in the young history of the Golden Knights among defensemen in goals (15) and third in points (68).

Others include…

  • Zach Sanford (St. Louis Blues – 11 games, 1-2-3, plus-1)
  • Madison Bowey (Detroit Red Wings – 11 games, 0-2-2, minus-6)
  • Cody Eakin (Vegas Golden Knights – 12 games, 0-2-2, minus-6)
  • Connor Carrick (New Jersey Devils – 4 games, 0-1-1, minus-3)
  • Justin Williams (Carolina Hurricaneson leave)
  • Semyon Varlamov (New York Islanders – 7 games, 5-2-0, 2.14, .929, 1 shutout)
  • Jaroslav Halak (Boston Bruins – 6 games, 4-1-1, 2.82, .917, 1 shutout)

So which of the Caps’ Cup alumni – or any other ex-Capitals – do you miss the most? Hit us up in the comments!