With Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen possibly on the trade block in order to clear cap space, an additional $5.75 million could be available for the team to spend in free agency and/or trades. General manager Brian MacLellan stated after the 2018-19 season that the team will be looking to add forward depth as the Capitals’ top-line of captain Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, and forward Tom Wilson accounted for 12 of the team’s 20 goals (60%) in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. NoVa Caps takes a look at four possible fits on the forward front that the Capitals to target in Free Agency.
In order to facilitate a trade or free agent signing, Niskanen and/or forward Andre Burakovsky (a restricted free agent who will need a qualifying offer of at least $3.25 million for the Capitals to retain him) will likely have to be moved to accommodate cap space for an addition. The Capitals currently have $9,080,706 remaining in cap space.
Eberle, who will turn 29 on Wednesday, posted 19 goals, 37 points, and a -6 rating in his second season with the New York Islanders. He scored at least 20 goals and 47 points in each of the previous five seasons. While Eberle’s offensive production took a hit in 2018-19, the Islanders switched philosophies from being an offensive to a defensive team under head coach Barry Trotz, which could have impacted the way he plays.
Eberle returned to being the scorer that we’re used to seeing him be in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he finished with four goals and nine points in eight games. He scored in every game of the Islanders’ four-game series sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the First Round.
Eberle’s next cap hit will likely be in the $5-6 million range.
Ferland, 27, recorded 17 goals, 40 points, and a +13 rating in 71 games in his first season with the Carolina Hurricanes after a 21-goal, 41-point output in 77 games with the Calgary Flames a year ago. The forward has posted at least 15 goals in each of the last three seasons while playing in a middle-six role. His 182 hits during the regular season were the third-most on the Hurricanes.
He missed seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs after suffering an upper-body injury in a 5-0 win over the Capitals in Game 3 of the First Round series between the Hurricanes and Capitals. Ferland recorded an assist in his first game back from injury in Game 1 against the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
Ferland will likely make somewhere around $3.5 million next season.
Panik, 28, tallied 14 goals, 33 points, and a -3 rating in 75 games with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19, matching his goal-total and coming two shy of his point total in 72 games from the previous season. The best year of his career came in 2016-17 when he recorded 22 goals, 44 points, and a +14 rating in 82 games with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In 12 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Panik has just four assists and a -5 rating. He would be an excellent addition to bolster the third-line if forward(s) Brett Connolly and/or Carl Hagelin leave as unrestricted free agents. Panik could even play on the Capitals’ second power-play unit. He averaged 1:59 worth of ice-time per game on the power-play and 1:12 per game on the penalty kill with the Coyotes this season. The Coyotes’ 85% penalty-killing efficiency was tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets during the regular season. Panik is also smart defensively as his 46 takeaways were tied with forward Clayton Keller for the second-most on Arizona and his 52 blocked shots were three behind center Brad Richardson for the team lead. His 137 hits ranked fifth on the Coyotes.
Panik will likely demand a contract with a cap hit around the $3 million range.
Donskoi, 27, recorded 14 goals, 37 points, and a +10 rating in 80 regular-season games with the San Jose Sharks this season. In eight Stanley Cup Playoff games so far, he has a goal, two points, and an even rating. His +10 rating during the regular season was tied with forward Marcus Sorensen for the third-highest on the Sharks and the highest among the team’s forwards.
The forward has posted at least 11 goals and 30 points in three of his first four NHL seasons and was a key contributor during San Jose’s run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. His six goals were tied with forward Tomas Hertl for the fifth-most on the Sharks that year. Donskoi also recorded 12 points during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and scored the first game-winning goal during the Stanley Cup Final in Sharks history.
Donskoi’s cap hit will likely be in the $2.5 million range.
By Harrison Brown