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What's next for the Caps? There's no real consensus among players or coaches

What's next for the Caps? There's no real consensus among players or coaches

After another early playoff exit, the Capitals find themselves at a bit of a crossroads. With multiple expiring contracts and an aging core that has yet to carry this team past the second round, what direction is this team headed? Do the Caps need to make drastic changes to fix what ails them or makes just a few tweaks to finally get them over the hump?

It’s not an easy question to answer and there was no real consensus from the players at team’s breakdown day.

“I don't know if minor cosmetic changes are going to change anything really,” Matt Niskanen said.” It's pretty clear that this group didn't get it done so what changes and how many or what level of changes, I don't know what the answer is. Talent wise and our potential was clearly there. That's all fluff now. We need results.”

“I think any time you underachieve at what you're trying to do, you know there's going to be changes,” Brooks Orpik said. “That's just part of the business that we're in.”

“Obviously it's not working,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I'm sure the organization will figure that out and try again.”

ELATED: Caps release key offseason dates

Given this team’s history, especially in the Ovechkin era, it seems hard to argue that something significant needs to change because the formula there does not seem to be working. But not everyone agrees.

“I still think there's a window next year,” Lars Eller said. “I think there will be enough of the core intact that you could still make a play. First thing is you have to get into the playoffs, once you're in the playoffs you have a chance to win.”

“We’re going to be good again,” Tom Wilson said. “There's a lot of great pieces that are here that are core guys that have long contracts still that instill the right things in the group.”

“I think we're in the right position for sure and I think we will be stronger next year for sure,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said.

Then there are the guys who just don’t know, the guys who think the team will try to win but that the team’s chance of winning the Cup may now be in the rearview mirror.

“The nice thing is that we all know the organization does what it takes to put a good product on the ice and try to win," Karl Alzner said. "Whether there's a lot of changes and new faces next year, it's still going to be a team that is trying to win and that's a nice thing. … But yeah, this is a pretty good window that we had here and unfortunately, it's not there anymore.”

For his part, you can put head coach Barry Trotz down as someone who wants to see the team make only minor changes and try again next season.

“I know people talk about the window closing, the window doesn't close, it just changes a little bit because the window of all those pieces that have been here for six, seven years or whatever, they're going to change doesn't mean that you can't add pieces that may even be better. You see that all the time.”

Sure, you could file this down as a “What is he supposed to say?” comment. Major changes can often mean a coaching change so it’s not surprising to see him advocate against rebuilding. But Trotz was also adamant that the team was close to reaching its championship goal and cautioned that now was not the time to turn over the roster.

“This league is so unpredictable and sometimes so random that it's hard to grasp sometimes even as an organization or fans or media, to grasp how close you are from winning and how close you are from losing. You talk about inches, it might be millimeters. That's how close it is. Changes in momentum, a big save here, a fortunate goal here or a timely goal changes a series or momentum swing.”

“We're disappointed that we didn't reach our goal,” Trotz added, “It doesn't mean that we're not going to keep striving for our goal.”

But even if general manager Brian MacLellan agrees, there are going to be several players who will not be returning to Washington next season. Even after advocating minor tweaks, Trotz also acknowledged, “Group's going to change. That's just the financial part of it.”

With 11 free agents on the active roster heading into the offseason, as well as 14 more among their prospects and minor league players, and not enough cap space to pay them all, MacLellan is going to have to make some tough decisions regarding who to bring back and who to let go. Whether he agrees with those advocating for major changes or those who believe only minor tweaks are necessary will determine how he approaches the team’s free agents.

As much disagreement as there is within the team, there seems to be one thing everyone can agree on: The Caps are going to look like a very different team next season.

MORE CAPITALS: How do the Caps overcome their mental block?

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Who is coming back for the Caps?

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Who is coming back for the Caps?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir look at each of the Caps' free agents and talk about who could be back and who will be moving on. They also look at how the Caps' fared in the World Championship and which prospects could make the jump to the NHL next season.

Like what you hear? Be sure to subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play and give us a good review! Maybe we'll even read it on the air. For the latest Caps coverage be sure to follow @CSNCapitals@TarikCSN and @JJReganCSN on Twitter.

RELATED: Caps release key offseason dates

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Caps release key offseason dates

Caps release key offseason dates

The Stanley Cup has not yet been awarded, but the offseason has already begun for the Caps. The team released a list of key offseason dates for the summer on Monday. Here are some of the more important ones to mark on your calendar.

June 17: Deadline to submit protected list for the Vegas expansion draft

Every team is going to lose one player to Vegas in the expansion draft, but there are rules in place to help teams protect their top players. Each team will have the option of protecting either seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters and a goalie. That list must be submitted by June 17. Here's the fun part. For the unrestricted free agents not on the protected list, Vegas will be able to negotiate with those players prior to the actual draft. That means Vegas could potentially come to an agreement with a free agent, select someone else in the draft, then wait to sign that player when free agency starts.

RELATED: HOW DO THE CAPS OVERCOME THEIR MENTAL BLOCK?

June 21: NHL Awards Show and Vegas expansion draft revealed

Braden Holtby will be there as a Vezina Trophy finalist. Also, during the awards the 30 players the Vegas Golden Knights have selected in the expansion draft will be revealed so we will officially know who from the Caps is Vegas bound.

June 23-24: NHL Draft

The Caps do not pick until the fourth round as of now, but there's a long way between now and then. Perhaps general manager Brian MacLellan pulls off a trade or two to try to get some earlier picks back.

June 26: Deadline for submitting qualifying offers to restricted free agents

Brett Connolly, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov, Philipp Grubauer all will be restricted free agents this offseason. To retain their rights, teams must submit a qualifying offer by this date. Otherwise, those players automatically become unrestricted free agents.

June 26 - July 1: Caps' development camp

Fans will get a chance to see the Caps of tomorrow in action as they descend upon Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the team's annual development camp. The camp wraps up with a scrimmage that fans can watch on July 1.

RELATED: HERSHEY PROSPECTS THE CAPITALS COULD USE IN THE FUTURE

July 1: Start of NHL free agency

Given the team's salary cap constraints don't expect to see general manager Brian MacLellan handing out too many contracts.

RELATED: AFTER TWO STRONG YEARS, TJ OSHIE WANTS TO REMAIN IN D.C.

July 5: Deadline for player-elected arbitration

July 6: Deadline for team-elected arbitration

Of the team's RFAs, Connolly, Kuznetsov, Schmidt, Orlov, and Grubauer are all eligible for arbitration.

July 15: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offers

If RFAs do not accept qualifying offers by this time, those offers expire. The players remain RFAs and the team retains their rights, however. New contracts can still be negotiated.

Sept. 9-12: Rookie tournament

Just prior to training camp, Caps' rookies will take part in a four-team tournament against the Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning. The tournament will take place in Estero, Fla.

Mid-September: Training camp and preseason

The official date has not yet been announced, but the Caps will return to Washington in mid-September to begin training for another quest for the Stanley Cup.

Oct. 4: Opening night of the NHL season

The Caps' schedule has not yet been released, but the new NHL season officially begins on Oct. 4.

MORE CAPITALS: Backstrom scores decisive shootout goal to win Worlds