Photo: Broad Street Hockey
The Washington Capitals cleared some much-needed cap space when they traded defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas on Friday morning. He enters the 2019-20 season on the last year of his four-year, $13.4 million ($3.35 million AAV) contract (30% of which was retained by Philadelphia) and can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Should the Capitals keep Gudas, a right-handed defenseman, he will likely slot in on the Capitals’ third-pair next season with defenseman Christian Djoos or will add depth as a seventh defenseman. The Capitals will likely lose defenseman Brooks Orpik in unrestricted free agency due to salary cap restraints, so they needed a steady defenseman with some size and penalty killing experience that can step into his place.
The 29-year old defenseman comes to the Capitals with 416 games of NHL experience under his belt. He played the first three seasons of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning but had never played a full season with them. After playing 31 games for the Bolts in the 2014-15 regular season, Gudas was shipped to the Flyers in exchange for defenseman Brayden Coburn in addition to first and third-round selections in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Despite the fact that Gudas has never played a full 82-game season in his career, he has always averaged at least 17 minutes in each of his seven NHL seasons.
Gudas waited until next season to make his Flyers’ debut and appeared in 76 games in 2015-16, posting five goals, 14 points, and a -3 rating. He also appeared in six Stanley Cup Playoff games, where he had a -2 rating and a team-leading 18 penalty minutes.
He had the best season of his career in 2016-17 and set career-highs in goals (six), assists (17), points (23), and plus-minus (+8). He recorded two goals, 16 points, and an even rating in 70 games during the 2017-18 season but posted only a -1 rating and nine penalty minutes during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Gudas did not speak to the media after the Flyers were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the First Round when two of his turnovers led to goals that helped the Penguins tie the game after the Flyers held a 4-2 lead in the second period. The Flyers ultimately lost by a score of 8-5.
Gudas finished this past season on the Flyers’ third defensive pair, mentoring young defenseman Robert Hagg. He completed the season with four goals, 20 points, and a +6 rating, which finished second on the Flyers behind only captain Claude Giroux (+9). His 63 penalty minutes this past season was his lowest in his past four as he finished with at least 83 minutes for three consecutive seasons. His 27 penalties in 2018-19 led the Flyers. On the defensive side of the puck, Gudas finished the season with 23 takeaways but 59 giveaways, the third-most on the Flyers. Gudas’ 133 blocked shots were also tied for the third-most on the team along with Sanheim. His 255 hits were three behind Hagg for the team lead.
Gudas (to Caps) is decent defensively and incredibly fond of shooting from the right point. Niskanen is considerably weaker, both offensively and defensively, but shoots the puck better. Doesn’t make sense for Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/BP52HrmHBJ
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) June 14, 2019
Gudas finished the season with an average of 17:53 per game, the seventh-highest on the Flyers and fourth among the team’s defenseman. He was one of the team’s best penalty-killers and his average of 2:37 per game while shorthanded was second on the Flyers behind only defenseman Ivan Provorov, who averaged 2:54 per game on the penalty-kill. Unfortunately for Gudas and the Flyers, the team finished the season with the sixth-worst penalty-killing unit in the league with an efficiency of 78.5%.
Gudas has had a Corsi-for percentage (shots + blocks + misses for versus against) at even-strength above 50% except for two seasons, including this past year when he finished with an even-strength Corsi-for percentage of 49.1%. For his career, Gudas has an even-strength corsi-percentage of 51.4%.
— Luke Adomanis (@LukeAdomanis) June 14, 2019
Gudas recorded a Fenwick-for percentage (shots + misses for versus against) at even-strength of 49.7% this past season but that was his worst in four seasons. He finished with a Fenwick-for percentage at even strength above 50% five times in his seven-year career.
Gudas got more than 50% of his even-strength zone starts in the offensive zone during his time with the Lightning. Since he got to Philadelphia, hoever, more than 50% of his even-strength zone starts have come in the defensive zone each year. This past season, 59% of his even-strength zone starts came in the defensive zone, a career-high.
Gudas has had a positive even-strength possession quality in all but two of his seasons in his career, including an even-strength possession quality of 4.9 in 2016-17 before tallying 6.4 the next season.
Washington: Radko Gudas
Philadelphia: Matt Niskanen
Niskanen plays tougher minutes, but has declined heavily and is much less effective in them than Gudas who arguably deserves a larger role. pic.twitter.com/GZJLUvYcmY
— dom luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn) June 14, 2019
Gudas brings a steady, defensive presence for a Capitals team that will likely lose Orpik as an unrestricted free agent in a few weeks time. While Gudas is not as offensively gifted as Niskanen is, the fact that he costs a lot less and can still take on heavy minutes while playing well defensively makes this deal promising for the Capitals. With an extra $2.4 million available in cap space for General Manager Brian MacLellan to play with in other trades and free agency, there are likely more moves coming in the nation’s capital. Stay tuned.
By Harrison Brown