The Washington Capitals completed their last major piece of offseason business Friday by finalizing a new contract for Tom Wilson, the physical right wing who had a career year during the team’s run to its first Stanley Cup. In a deal long expected, Washington will pay Wilson $31 million over six seasons, an average of $5.17 million, according to a press release the team sent Friday night.
“Tom is an invaluable member of our team, and we are pleased that he will play a great part in our foreseeable future,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said in the statement. “Tom is a unique player in this league. At 24 years of age, he has an impressive amount of experience, and we believe that he will only continue to grow and improve as a player. With his ability to play in virtually any game situation, teams need players like Tom in order to succeed in the NHL.”
Wilson’s 14 goals, 21 assists and 15:59 average ice time during the regular season were career highs. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder scored five goals and added 10 assists during the postseason, though his most memorable moment might have been his hit on the Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The league suspended Wilson for three games, but he returned the following series and continued his hard-hitting play. It was one of three suspensions for him last season.
Wilson, who earned $2.25 million last season, was a restricted free agent, meaning the Capitals owned his negotiating rights. He opted not to file for arbitration. Without arbitration, it was possible negotiations could have lasted until training camp.
“6 more years in DC!! Love this team and love this city. Beyond excited to stay a part of the Capitals family!” Wilson tweeted.
After re-signing defenseman Madison Bowey to a two-year, $2 million deal last week and Brooks Orpik to a one-year $1 million contract Tuesday, Washington had roughly $6.2 million in cap space for the upcoming season. Several industry insiders projected the team would have to pay Wilson between $3.5 million and $4.5 million per year. In that sense, the player might have won this negotiation, but the Caps are locking up a 24-year-old who was their first-round pick in 2012 and has consistently improved.
This past season, he spent the majority of his minutes on the top line with captain Alex Ovechkin and also was one of the team’s top penalty-killers. He is perhaps the Capitals’ most physical player, with a well-deserved reputation as the team’s enforcer. According to the website dropyourgloves.com, Wilson engaged in 18 fights in 2017-18 — including one in the playoffs — and won 13 of the exchanges.