Cup-Winning Capitals: Where Are They Now?
A lot has changed within the Washington Capitals organization in the two seasons following their 2018 Stanley Cup championship run.
To begin, head coach Barry Trotz and his coaching staff made the transition from the nation’s capital to Long Island two weeks after their Stanley Cup victory. Most notably, a significant number of players who played for the Capitals during their championship-winning season no longer “rock the red.”
While reading about Chandler Stephenson’s trade to the Vegas Golden Knights, I began to wonder how many players from the 2017-18 team have since parted ways with the club.
Below, I take a deeper look at the 16 players who contributed to the Capitals’ winning season but have since been traded, signed by other teams, or have retired.
Jay Beagle: Vancouver Canucks
Known around the league for his gritty play style, impressive face-off winning percentage, and penalty-killing skills, Jay Beagle played an integral role in the Capitals’ Stanley Cup-winning season.
Beagle, who regularly lined up in between Chandler Stephenson and Devante Smith-Pelly as the fourth-line center, won 584 faceoffs (58.5 FO%) and tallied 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) during the 2017-18 regular season. By the time he hoisted the Cup, the center had recorded 184 faceoff wins (60.1 FO%) and eight points (two goals, six assists) throughout the playoffs.
With the Capitals nearing the salary cap after their championship win, Beagle ended his 11-year tenure in Washington D.C. and signed a four-year, $12 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent on July 1, 2018.
Madison Bowey: Detroit Red Wings
The Canadian defenseman played in 51 games for Washington during its 2017-18 campaign. Although beginning the season in the American Hockey League with the Hershey Bears, the Capitals recalled Bowey in mid-October after Matt Niskanen was sidelined due to injury. He recorded 12 assists throughout the season, and he did not skate during the playoffs.
Fresh off of a two-year, $2 million extension, Bowey played in 33 games for the Capitals to begin the 2018-19 season. He scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 29, 2018 against the Ottawa Senators, and he recorded six points (one goal, five assists) for the Capitals that season.
On Feb. 22, Washington traded Bowey to the Detroit Red Wings along with a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for defenseman Nick Jensen.
Andre Burakovsky: Colorado Avalanche
Andre Burakovsky will forever be cherished by Capitals’ fans for his contribution in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.
Burakovsky began Oct. 2017 sidelined for 20 games due to a fractured left thumb after the first nine games of the season. The Austrian-born Swedish left-winger remained healthy for the remainder of the regular season following his return, totaling 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 56 games.
Injury struck again just two games into Washington’s first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets when Burakovsky suffered an upper-body injury. He returned to the third line in time for the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Although the winger struggled to produce throughout the playoffs, he scored two goals in Game 7 to help send the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final.
After a lackluster 2018-19 season with the Capitals in which he produced 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 83 games, Burakovsky was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche for forward Scott Kosmachuk and two picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He inked a one-year, $3.25 million deal with his new team.
Alex Chiasson: Edmonton Oilers
Although he rarely made headlines, Alex Chiasson performed well during his only season in the nation’s capital. Signed as a free agent at the beginning of the season, the Montreal native recorded 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 77 games as a bottom-six forward throughout the regular season and playoffs.
Chiasson is most remembered for scoring the opening goal in Game 6 of the second round of 2018 playoffs in which the Capitals eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Following the Stanley Cup win, the Edmonton Oilers signed Chiasson to a professional tryout in September 2018 and later signed him to a one-year contract. He inked a two-year, $4.3 million extension with the team in July.
Taylor Chorney: HC Lugano (NL)
The defenseman only played in 24 games throughout Washington’s championship season. Primarily filling the role of the seventh defenseman, the Ontario native produced four unimpressive points (one goal, three assists) during that span.
The Capitals placed Chorney on waivers to free up cap space for Michal Kempny in February 2018, where he was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He only appeared in one game for the team.
Brett Connolly: Florida Panthers
Brett Connolly surprised many people around the NHL with his impressive performance during the 2017-18 season, especially in the playoffs. The winger, who lined up alongside Burakovsky and Lars Eller on the third line, finished the regular season as the Capitals’ sixth-highest goal-scorer with 15 goals in 70 games. The Canadian tallied nine crucial points in the playoffs with six goals and three assists.
Connolly remained in Washington for the 2018-19 season where he produced a career-best 22 goals, 24 assists, and 46 points. However, the 27-year-old left the Capitals as a free agent after three seasons with the team, signing a four-year, $13 million contract with the Florida Panthers.
Tyler Graovac: Vancouver Canucks
Tyler Graovac only appeared in five games for the Capitals after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild specifically for comfort in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The center did not register any points during his tenure, and he was reassigned to the Hershey Bears for the remainder of the 2017-18 season after being placed on waivers.
The Calgary Flames signed Graovac as a free agent in July 2018, but he only played for the Stockton Heat, their AHL affiliate. Following the end of his contract, Vancouver signed the center to a one-year, two-way deal.
Philipp Grubauer: Colorado Avalanche
Philipp Grubauer was largely responsible for the team’s championship season. Although labeled as the backup to Braden Holtby, the German goaltender took over the starting position leading up to the playoffs with 10 starts in the last 16 games of the regular season. He started the first two games of the playoffs against Columbus before Holtby reestablished his normal role for the remainder of the postseason.
Washington traded Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche alongside Brooks Orpik two weeks after its Stanley Cup victory for a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. As a result, Grubauer became the starter in Denver (from ‘Avalanche goaltending could be potential weakness or shared strength,’ Denver Post, 10/02/2019), and the Capitals freed up cap space to re-sign defenseman John Carlson.
Jakub Jerabek: HC Vityaz (KHL)
The Capitals acquired Jakub Jerabek via a trade with the Montreal Canadiens halfway through the 2017-18 season. The Czech defenseman did not play a significant role within the team, featuring in only 11 regular-season games and two first-round playoff games. The 26-year-old compiled five total points (one goal, four assists) during his tenure with the organization.
Jerabek’s career following his Stanley Cup win has been hectic, to say the least. The Oilers signed the Czech Republic native to a one-year deal in August 2018 before trading him to the St. Louis Blues in October. He was reassigned to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL after appearing in one game for the Blues. Jerabek signed a one-year deal with the KHL’s HC Vityaz in May 2019.
Aaron Ness: Arizona Coyotes
The American defenseman spent the majority of his time with the Capitals organization as a member of the Hershey Bears, appearing in 239 games for the AHL team over four seasons. Ness played in just eight regular season games for there Capitals during the 2017-18 season, registering a single assist.
Despite being recalled on occasion the following season, Ness never skated for Washington again. He spent the rest of the season with Hershey before inking a two-year, two-way deal with the Arizona Coyotes this July.
The defenseman split his playing time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate, the Tuscon Roadrunners, last season.
Matt Niskanen: Philadelphia Flyers
Matt Niskanen did not start off the 2017-18 season as planned. The top-four veteran defenseman was sidelined for a month after suffering a wrist injury five games into the season. He slotted in next to defensive partner Dmitry Orlov on the second pairing upon return, but he was unable to regain form throughout the season.
The Minnesota native recorded 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 68 regular-season games along with nine points (one goal, eight assists) in the playoffs.
The 32-year-old continued to struggle throughout the 2018-19 season, and he was ultimately traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas in June in order to free up cap space.
Brooks Orpik: Retired
Common questions everyone asked entering the 2017-18 season included how much longer would Brooks Orpik play in NHL, and could the veteran continue to be a solid defensive presence for the Capitals at the age of 37?
It was apparent that Orpik was on his last legs as an NHL player, and that certainly showed through his 10-point — all assists — regular-season performance. However, he surprised many in the playoffs as he recorded a clutch five points (one goal, four assists) while on the third defensive pairing. He also scored the game-winning and series-tying goal against the Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion was traded to the Colorado Avalanche along with Grubauer just two weeks after the championship victory in order to clear salary cap space. The Avalanche bought out his contract, and he was re-signed by the Capitals the following month.
Anthony Peluso: Bakersfield Condors (AHL)
The Canadian right winger was never intended to be a regular in the Capitals’ lineup following his one-year, two-way contract signing from the Winnipeg Jets in July 2017. Peluso spent the majority of his tenure in Hershey, being recalled for just a two-game span in the NHL that October.
Following the season, the forward signed a one-year deal with Calgary before being assigned to the AHL. Peluso then signed a one-year contract with the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, in July 2019.
Devante Smith-Pelly: HC Kunlun Red Star (KHL)
Devante Smith-Pelly’s Stanley Cup-winning season can best be described as a rollercoaster. The winger started off the season on the first line with Alex Ovechkin before moving his way down to the fourth line by the time the playoffs came around. For a forward who started the season on the first line, Smith-Pelly produced an unimpressive 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) during the regular season.
However, it would be impossible to forget his incredible playoff performance. The Canadian scored seven goals—two game-winners and the game-tying goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final—within 24 games to help Washington secure its first postseason championship.
Smith-Pelly’s career after the 2017-18 season has also been a rollercoaster. The fourth-liner spent a lackluster 54 games with the Capitals before being placed on waivers and sent down to Hershey. He featured in just three of the Capitals’ first-round games in 2019 playoffs. As a free agent at the end of the season, Smith-Pelly was signed to and cut from a professional tryout with the Flames. The Stanley Cup champion finally agreed to a one-year deal with the KHL’s HC Kunlun Red Star in October 2019.
Chandler Stephenson: Vegas Golden Knights
Although playing in six games for Hershey during the season, Chandler Stephenson became a key piece in the Capitals’ 2017-18 campaign. As a personified Swiss Army knife, the winger saw action in each line throughout the season but established his place on the fourth line. The Saskatchewan native produced a total of 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) on the season by the time he was crowned a Stanley Cup champion.
Last season, however, he tallied just 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 70 games. Washington traded Stephenson to Vegas in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Although a valuable fourth-liner, the Capitals’ needed to move the winger in order to free cap space.
Nathan Walker: St. Louis Blues
Similar to others’ from this Cup-winning team, the fan-favorite Australian’s NHL career has also been a rollercoaster. Walker split playing time in the 2017-18 season between Hershey, Washington, and Edmonton after being placed on and acquired through waivers by both the Capitals and Oilers during the fall.
Most notably, the winger registered an assist on Chiasson’s goal in Game 6 against Pittsburgh. He became the first Australian player to play in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup.
After spending the majority of last season in the AHL, Walker signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Blues. He scored his first goal for St. Louis—his first NHL goal in two years—in a 5-2 victory over the Penguins.
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