A Look At UFA Forwards That The Capitals Could Target

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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.

[Related: A Look At UFA Defensemen The Capitals Could Target]

Jordan Eberle

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.

Michael Ferland

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.

Richard Panik

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.

Joonas Donskoi

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

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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12 Responses to A Look At UFA Forwards That The Capitals Could Target

  1. Raleigh Hampson says:

    Of these, I like Donskoi the best. Solid hard-working middle-/bottom-6 forward to help shore up the forward ranks, and affordavle. Plus he has a righteous beard.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      Donskoi, an interesting choice. Fun fact on the name Donskoi — it was the surname of a Russian prince back in the 14th century. (I’d have to look up the exact facts.) But Donskoi means “of the Don” as in the Don River in Russia. (I presume Joonas’s ancestors were originally Russian but ended up in Finland somehow.)

  2. Eric Lord says:

    With Vrana needing a new contract, I’m not sure Eberle is a realistic get for the Caps, even if they trade Niskanen. Ferland is an interesting case because when he was negotiating a possible extension with Carolina earlier in the season, he was asking for a Tom Wilson contract. I can’t see the Caps giving him that kind of a deal if that is still his demands. Donskoi & Panik are two players who could help & who would probably better fit into what the Caps want to pay a third liner

  3. Anonymous says:

    I like the idea of Panik and if he fits in well with our culture, he could be real nice bargain

  4. Anonymous says:

    They need a new BC or MK… maybe ferland but I doubt it but look around

  5. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Donskoi if his number came in at 2mil or so., but Caps cannot afford anybody from outside once you start creeping up into the 3.5mil and over range bc you have to pay your HOFRs(OV,Backy&Holtby)&Vrana.Unless you want this organization to go back into a “Transition” Period where nobody gave a crap about hockey except a small group of fans& nationally the caps arent talked about bc thats what happens when OV&Backy& Holtby retire. Caps go back into the darkness of being just another team. Even if Tom Wilson is only 30&they extend him out and Kuzy etc.. unless Caps arent fighting for divisions&Titles they are fighting to make the playoffs if that.

    So you gotta use the farm talent to fill holes, whether Nathan Walker, Boyd, AJF etc fill bottom 6 holes on the cheap so you can keep your HOF guys& keep the window open another 5 years or so

  6. Day One Caps Fan says:

    Everything is Back to Normal! The Caps choked and made an ugly, early Playoff exit. “Epic Fails” as the internet artwork describes the Caps. And we all get to cry in our beer and hope Caps can con some other team to cough up a forward more effective that the ones we have.

    How about a new Head Coach? GMBM call your office

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