Capitals' T.J. Oshie hopes to play next season. He'll only do so if his back problems are fixed

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — T.J. Oshie lingered on the ice long after many of his Washington Capitals teammates departed for the locker room following the loss that eliminated them from the playoffs.

His family was at all four games, including in New York, just in case.

They could be the final ones he plays in the NHL.

Oshie isn't calling it a career just yet, but the 37-year-old winger acknowledged Tuesday he and doctors must find a solution to his chronic back problems before committing to return for a 17th season.

“I’d love to play next year, but I will need to come back with somewhat of a guarantee that my back won’t be — it’s hard putting everyone through the situation,” Oshie said. "I’d like to find just an answer and a fix to the problem before I make another run at it.”

Oshie's back and other injuries limited him to 52 of 82 games during the regular season, and he played the series finale against the Rangers with a broken left hand.

“A broken hand is like a hangnail compared to what I go through with my back,” Oshie said, adding he's often on the floor unable to move when it gives out. “There’s been a lot of just extra things that I have to do to make sure that my back is ready to play an NHL game.”

Already expecting center Nicklas Backstrom to remain on long-term injured in the final year of his contract after stepping away in November because of a nagging hip issue, general manager Brian MacLellan said the team will support Oshie whichever decision he makes and doesn't have a date by which he'd like an answer.

“If he determines at some point that he feels good, he wants to come back to play, let’s go that way,” MacLellan said. “If he doesn’t, we’ll work it out that way, too.”

Oshie's presence or lack thereof would certainly affect how the Capitals affect the offseason, whether they can use his $5.75 million salary space or need to fill a major void.

"He’s a big part of our team," MacLellan said. “You have him, or you go out and find a guy.”

Oshie, who reached the 1,000 games milestone and scored the empty-net goal that clinched a playoff spot, long ago emerged as a popular teammate and fan favorite and was the Capitals’ emotional engine for nearly a decade while playing through injuries.

“He’s a warrior,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “He’s a guy who brings energy on the ice and off the ice. He have so much respect from the coaching staff to the fans and from the players, as well. He’s a guy who brings everything to this group on the ice and off the ice.”


After scoring just eight goals in his first 43 games of the season, Ovechkin went on a tear down the stretch to finish with 31 before being held without a point in a playoff series for the first time. At 853, he's 42 away from Wayne Gretzky's NHL career record, turns 39 in September and has two years remaining on his contract.

“If I make it, it’s good, but it’s still 42 goals,” Ovechkin said. “It’s kind of a long way. But it’s possible if you’re going to be healthy, yeah.”

MacLellan joked about penciling in Ovechkin for 42 next season, knowing full well it's unfair to expect one of the oldest players in the league to carry Washington offensively. His hope is also to add through trades and free agency to give Ovechkin some help.


Charlie Lindgren earned the No. 1 job from Darcy Kuemper and carried the Capitals to the playoffs starting a career-high 48 games. He has one season left on the three-year, $3.3 million contract he has outperformed and looks in line for a major raise, whether it's with Washington or someone else.

"We’ll kind of see what happens with that," Lindgren said. “It’d be nice, I’m not going to lie. Obviously it’s something that I’m working hard and I’m doing everything I can not just for myself but for my family and for the team and the organization."

While Lindgren is eligible to sign an extension July 1, MacLellan expects conversations but to go into the season without a new contract. He also expects Kuemper, two seasons into a five-year contract worth $26.25 million he got after backstopping Colorado to the Cup in 2022, to bounce back and have a good season.


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