T.J. Oshie picked a good time to set a career-high in goals. With 29 goals, Oshie currently leads the team. Should that hold, he will be the first player other than Alex Ovechkin to lead the Caps in goals since Robert Lang in 2003-04, before Ovechkin was drafted. In fact, Oshie has set a career-high in goals in each of his two seasons in Washington.
Why is that good timing? Because Oshie is currently in the final year of his contract and the need to re-sign him was made clear on Saturday with his hat trick performance.
As a top-line caliber winger who will likely hit the 30-goal mark this season, Oshie will not lack for suitors this summer. Getting a deal done before he reaches free agency will likely be high on the Caps’ to-do list after the season.
While Oshie acknowledged after practice on Monday that he has thought about his contract status, he was also quick to say he is keeping his mind on the task at hand.
“When you have a wife and two kids, you have to think about it a little bit, but anyone that knows me knows that I'm extremely present,” Oshie said.
“It's always in the back of your mind where you're going to be because I have a family to think about,” he added, “But, same token, I'm just approaching every day to come have fun at the rink, get better and do something special.”
Right wing on the top line was a bit of a revolving door before the Caps traded for Oshie in the summer of 2015 to fill that void. He has since cemented himself in that position with his strong play beside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
But the fact that he has played so well could potentially be an issue after the season. Oshie’s salary this season is $4.5 million and, as he stands to be one of the top free agents in the NHL, he will be due a significant raise. At 30 years old, this is also likely going to be his last “big” contract. That means he will be looking for term and looking for money.
An article published by NHL Numbers estimates Oshie’s next contract on the open market will be worth $6 million for six years, but even acknowledges that is a “conservative” estimate. Re-signing Oshie was already not going to come cheap, but considering the money he stands to gain if he reaches free agency, it may take a very hefty contract to keep him in Washington.
But there are other potential factors that could work in the Caps’ favor.
Oshie’s production in Washington is no accident, clearly this team and coach are a good fit for him. His family also seems to have settled in well with the area.
“I don't think it could have worked any better,” Oshie said. “My wife loves all the other wives and girlfriends. Lila's became best friends with a couple of the young girls on the team. I couldn't have asked for a better fit, I don't think.”
That’s encouraging for the Caps, but even if Oshie is willing to take a discount to remain in Washington, it’s not likely to be a significant one.
Whether the Caps would be willing to offer him what it will take to keep him here is also a point worth considering. Oshie is, after all, on the wrong side of 30. If he does get $6 to 7 million per year, how much longer will he be able to play up to those numbers?
Landing a player in free agency almost always requires overpaying them. Whatever the Caps will be willing to pay Oshie, chances are another team will be willing to pay more. Whether the Caps will be able to keep him from getting to that point where he can start listening to other offers remains to be seen.
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