Tuesday night, Michael Phelps won his twentieth and twenty-first career gold medals and received congratulations from an unlikely source: Canadian NHL’er Tom Wilson. The Caps forward called Phelps a #beast an posted a photo of the two together in the Caps locker room.
Photo: Patrick Smith
The Caps announced on Thursday that they re-signed not-at-all controversial right winger Tom Wilson to a 2-year deal that will carry a cap hit of $2 million. This may be hard to believe about a Wilson-related topic, but a lot of people had opinions about this deal.
The cap hit is a bit higher than I expected. Wilson carried a cap hit of $894,000 last season, so my eye-test guess was that he’d come in with a cap hit around $1.5 million.
Is the difference of $500,000 a big deal? Yes and no. Yes, it’s $500,000 less that the Caps have to use in free agency. They were already tight up against the salary cap so this further limits their flexibility. But also no, because a 25% payment above what I expected at $2 million isn’t all that big of a deal compared to a 25% over-payment on a deal worth significantly more.
In the end, the Caps seemed to have slightly overpaid for Wilson, but not so much that we need to serve up hot takes in response. Let’s take a look at why.
Photo: Mark Goldman
The Capitals announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with forward Tom Wilson. Wilson, who was selected by the Capitals 16th overall in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, was scheduled to become an RFA on July 1. The contract is worth $1.75 million next season, and $2.25 million in 2017-2018.
On Tuesday night, a day after news broke that Michael Latta would not receive a qualifying offer from the Washington Capitals, I had a lengthy interview with the forward, who is now set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Latta told me that he was caught off guard by the team’s decision to non-tender him, but had nothing but good things to say about his teammates and his time in Washington.
“I was getting texts from everyone,” Latta said when the news dropped. “I wasn’t replying right away to [Tom], so he double, triple, quadruple texted me.”
“I think that’s one of the best things about hockey, the relationships you build,” Latta continued. “Tom and I obviously have become very close and will probably be one of my best friends forever. I’ll take a lot of good things from Washington, like the friendships I’ve built.”
Latta, who according to Hockey Fights has dropped the gloves 106 times in his professional career, will now look for a new team. He’s hoping to find a spot where he can bring energy every night and penalty kill. Depending on where he ends up, Latta could find himself playing against his former Caps teammates next year. It may get very awkward for fans.
“It’s been fun, see you never,” Michael Latta tweeted to Andre Burakovsky in September.
After feeling “older and more mature,” the Burracuda moved into his own apartment, leaving the original Caps’ roomies, Latta and Tom Wilson, a brobean short.
Fast-forward to today and things have become harrowing. Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan non-tendered Latta, a restricted free agent, while tendering Wilson — metaphorically evicting Latta from the team. Talk about awkward. Latta will be free to sign with another team on July 1, breaking the lease between the Caps Roomies for good (at least physically in Arlington). Latta said his goodbyes this evening.
Thank you Washington, love the city, love the fans. Looking forward to earning an opportunity somewhere else.
— Michael Latta (@Latta17) June 27, 2016
Going to be sad not having you around next year brother. It was an amazing few years and you'll always be a great friend @Latta17
— Tom Wilson (@tom_wilso) June 27, 2016
During difficult times like these, we must openly weep, become irrational, and eat buckets of Häagen-Dazs. And also: remember the good times!
Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Tom Wilson has become one of the more polarizing Capitals players in recent years. A first round pick comes with certain expectations, and he has certainly not fulfilled all of them to this point in his young career. It may be too early to decide on his bust status quite yet, but those questions are rightfully being raised. As long as Wilson can keep contributing in a positive manner, whether the offensive numbers come or not, and his salary truthfully reflects his output, most Caps fans will want him on the team for as long as possible.
And that’s a good thing. He showed growth this year. If he continues to grow on the offensive side of the ice as well, it would make the Caps all the more dangerous.
During his season-ending press conference with reporters, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan lamented the loss of Joel Ward while also stating his desire to see Tom Wilson expand his role. “I think it’s on us to turn Tom Wilson into Joel Ward,” MacLellan said. “It’s on Tom and on us to turn him into that kind of guy that has a net-front presence, that finds loose pucks, finds rebounds, plays good along the wall. I think Tom is our answer to that.”
Wilson, who has led the Capitals in penalty minutes over the last three seasons, has not seen the offensive ability he showed in junior translate to the NHL. On Wednesday night, Wilson gave us a front row seat to the intense summer training that may or may not take him to the next level.
It did not include squats, but did include a samurai bun.
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