When the Caps traded for center Lars Eller, they did so with the expectation he could be the third-line center that could help solidify the bottom-six forward group. So far, however, Eller has been anything but.
Through 25 games played, Eller has a meager three points (two goals, one assist), putting him on pace for seven goals and three assists for 10 points, which would be his worst total in a full 82-game season. Earlier this season, Eller’s lack of production had some concerned, and that was at the very start of the season. Some may point out that his lack of production is due to being on a new tea after six seasons in Montreal, but that simply isn’t an excuse anymore. Through the first several games, it would have been, but he is now over a quarter into his first season with the Caps and has been given plenty of opportunities to score.
One of Eller’s biggest problems this season has been his inability to stay out of the penalty box. Through just 25 games played, he has 20 penalty minutes (PIM). To put that in perspective, in 79 games played last season he had 28 PIM. That has also contributed to his lack of offense, but it can’t be blamed entirely on his lack of discipline.
With several key players such as Karl Alzner, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Andre Burakovsky, among others) set to become free agents (both restricted and unrestricted) next summer, Eller will need to prove he can be a reliable source of offense if the Caps are unable to retain Oshie and/or Williams, as he has one more year left on his current deal. If he can’t step up, he will be taking up $3.5 million in cap space the Caps could use to re-sign their free agents.
By Michael Fleetwood