With the dust still settling on the Washington Capitals' most recent early playoff exit, the only thing left for fans to do is turn towards the future. Exactly what the Caps will look like in a couple of years, however, is very much open for debate.
It is clear that things in Washington have to change. Making the playoffs—something of a given the past six seasons as the Caps have just mauled the other teams in the soon-to-be-defunct Southeast Division—in and of itself is going to be a tough chore for the Caps.
Instead of bludgeoning the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, for the 2013-14 season the Caps will have to contend with new (or old depending on how long your memory is) divisional rivals who will present a much more formidable challenge.
In addition to the Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Caps will have to contend with the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils next season.
All of these teams are good. The Pens might very well be defending Stanley Cup champions next season.
If this was the World Cup, then the Caps' new division would absolutely be the Group of Death.
Can the Caps compete? There are many who think this team is very far away from being able to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Washington Post recently re-printed an interview with Jason LaCanfora, who covered the Caps for many years.
LaCanfora had some very pointed comments about the team he used to cover and he does not feel the Caps are anywhere close to a Stanley Cup. After watching this team for over 30 years and covering them here on Bleacher Report for the past year-and-a-half, I have to agree with LaCanfora to a certain extent.
Whatever the case, I believe it is safe to assume that the Caps' roster will go through some changes over the next season and, in all likelihood, some pretty significant ones. The team almost has no other option if it hopes to be able to compete in what looks to be the toughest division in the NHL.
Free agency is just part of the puzzle. If one looks at the Caps' roster, there are several players there—or who could be there soon—who might very well end up being traded away before the 2013-14 season ends.
In this article, I'll take a look at the five Capitals players most likely to be traded away prior to the end of the 2013-14 season.