Injuries to Washington Capitals Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson could impact statuses for next season
ARLINGTON, Va. — Nicklas Backstrom was gutted by a hip injury that caused him to miss the first two months of the season, and Tom Wilson, as hard as he tried, couldn’t do the same in playoffs because of a bad knee.
It’s now possible neither of them will be on the ice when the puck drops next season.
The Washington Capitals could have a long summer that extends into the fall given the uncertainty surrounding Backstrom, Wilson and winger Carl Hagelin, who hopes to play hockey again after a scary incident nearly cost him his left eye. . Wilson could be operated on for what he called a fairly significant knee injury, and Backstrom’s future is in doubt with a big decision looming.
“The best thing I want to do is play hockey, and it’s my life,” Backstrom said. “Obviously I want to be back. I want to get back to normal, not worry about it. We’ll see what happens.”
When asked if it was possible Backstrom’s career was in jeopardy, general manager Brian MacLellan did not answer directly and said: “I think he’s going to explore all the options here. He wants to let it be better. He wants to be more physically comfortable when he plays, so he’s going to explore that.”
Backstrom missed the first two months of the season rehabilitating his left hip, which he underwent in 2015 and which he acknowledges will never be fully healthy. MacLellan said it was not viable for the 34-year-old center to continue playing as he has been doing since December.
Wilson missed nearly all of Washington’s first-round series against Florida after twisting his left knee while avoiding a hit in Game 1 on May 3. He skated several times in hopes of coming back, but that was never a realistic possibility given the damage.
“My summer sucks now,” said Wilson, who also suffered a concussion in December. “It’s going to be tough for me. I have to start my recovery. As an athlete, it’s always nice to have goals and a clear mindset of what you need to do, and we get there with the doctors and all that.” and we’ll go from there.”
Captain Alex Ovechkin said he was returning to Moscow on Monday and would not need surgery on his bumped left shoulder. He missed the last three games of the regular season before returning for the start of the playoffs and registering one goal and five assists.
“We did some things to help him, and I was fine,” Ovechkin said. “But in the playoffs, I don’t think it matters. If it hurts, you have injections to do and you have magic pills.”
Winger TJ Oshie needed a lot of care to deal with a litany of injuries, including a broken right foot early in the season and a back ache that flared up. He was still Washington’s leading scorer in the Panthers series with seven points on six goals and one assist.
“This year has been pretty tough for me,” Oshie said. “But if someone is 100% healthy after six games in a playoff series, you probably haven’t played hard enough, so I guess everyone has something to do.”
Hagelin has been out since taking a team-mate’s errant stick to his left eye in training on March 1, rupturing the choroid so badly that doctors considered removing it. The 33-year-old Swede has undergone two surgeries and is more optimistic than two months ago to play next season, although his vision will never be 100% again.
“It’s always about depth perception and obviously looking down and looking up,” said Hagelin, who has skated a few times over the past few weeks. “It’s sometimes hard to focus straight away, so it’s still a work in progress. There will be a lot of eye training this summer, and I’m up for the challenge.”
The statuses of Backstrom, Wilson and Hagelin affect what the Capitals look to do this summer after a fourth consecutive first-round outing since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. Coach Peter Laviolette, who enters the final year of his contract with MacLellan is unwilling to address the possibility of an extension, would like to find room at center for 21-year-old Connor McMichael, and determining the goaltending situation is first on the offseason checklist .
“We’ve lost in the first round the last four years,” MacLellan said. “We will explore the changes. I don’t think anything is off the table.”