Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan managed to keep most of the roster from last season’s Stanley Cup winning team intact. John Carlson, who was the team’s top priority, signed on for eight more years while Devante Smith-Pelly and Brooks Orpik return for another season.
Tom Wilson, however, faced scrutiny from hockey fans when it was announced that he’d be staying in Washington, D.C. Wilson, who became a restricted free agent at the end of the season, reached a resolution with the Capitals and signed a six-year, $31.02 million contract in July.
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“It doesn’t really matter to me what everybody says,” Wilson said, according to The Score’s John Matisz. “No matter what happens … half the people are going to be happy, half the people aren’t. That’s just the way anything in life is so I’m not going to read too much into it.”
Wilson tallied 104 points (35 G, 69 A) in 391 games. With his recent extension, the 24-year-old became the second-highest paid forward from the 2012 NHL Draft class. Filip Forsberg, the 11th overall pick that year who led the Predators with 64 points last season, agreed to a six-year, $36 million deal with Nashville in 2016.
MacLellan dubbed Wilson as an “invaluable member of our team” when the team confirmed the signing. Wilson recorded 15 points en route to the team’s first championship, and his physical presence was acknowledged throughout the playoffs. He’s hoping to stay true to his same, physical play while being wiser moving forward.
“I’ve got to be the unique player, which is why they gave me that contract,” Wilson told reporters. “But I can’t cross the line so that I’m spending time in the box or in the stands. I’ve always had a pride in my physical play.”
Wilson was suspended three games during the 2018 postseason for his hit on Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese. The hit resulted in a broken jaw and concussion for Aston-Reese, who revealed he was fully recovered from the injury. Columbus’ Alex Wennberg left the Blue Jackets first round matchup against Washington with an upper-body injury following one of Wilson’s hits.
“It’s kind of a two-way street,” Wilson said. “I want the game to be a better place. I want the game to be safe too, but no one wants to see hitting out of the game because it’s such a unique part of our sport.”