The Capitals have improved drastically—a new banner being hung in the fall will prove that.
How do the Caps plan on taking that next step?
By keeping to what they've been doing.
Develop the young talent and then supplement it with one or two more free agents.
The biggest priority has to be to resign Cristobal Huet and Mike Green. Without either, the team wouldn't have made the playoffs.
One could go so far as to argue that had the Canadiens not traded Huet, they'd be the Eastern Conference Champions instead of the Penguins.
Mike Green was the breakout d-man of the year, earning his new nickname, "Game Over."
The team could use another defenseman (Roszival? Orpik?), but another move that might just be required is re-signing Shaone Morrisonn. The RFA (restricted free agent) helped cement the team's defense while Green was skating and making his plays.
With the right defensive pick up and with the (hopeful) right wing emergence of Tomas Fleischmann or Eric Fehr, who has yet to have a full healthy season, coupled with the returns of Chris Clark and Michael Nylander, and the possible return of Brian Pothier, this team could have an even better campaign next season.
Don't be surprised to see the Capitals challenge for the President's trophy or even the Stanley Cup next year. It's not out of the realm of possibility.
If the Pens can go from one round losers to Cup finalists, the Caps, who have been following the same blueprint, but seem to be just a year behind, could easily follow.
The only other question on the team is Fedorov. Would he come back?
If he'd be willing to play on the third line, the point on the power play, and take on a penalty killing role, he'd be a wonderful fit.
If not, look to see him return to the Red Wings or possibly the Ducks, if not retire.
As a Caps fan, I'd be a fool not to answer the one question on most Caps' fans minds—where's Olaf Kolzig going to end up?
My gut instinct tells me he's going to retire. There's not a cup contender that would be willing to have him sign and start immediately.
That said, a starting job in Detroit could easily open if both Osgood and Hasek retire. The thought of that has to make most Caps' fans cringe.
The best part of next season might just be that two numbers should be raised to the Verizon Center's rafters—Kolzig's 37, and Peter Bondra's 12.
This year should be a great year for Caps' fans.
Get ready, because with the sad state of the Redskins, this year could be the start of a shift towards DC becoming a hockey town. It's already a town of turnover.