Now that the 2018-19 NHL season has ended, the offseason trade buzz is starting to ramp up. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman, the Washington Capitals are among the most active teams in trade talks so far this offseason, which he said that there is a lot of.
“There’s a ton of trade talk.,” Freidman wrote in his weekly 31 Thoughts column on Saturday. “Among the most aggressive teams: Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vancouver, Vegas, Washington and Winnipeg. Depending on how the draft goes, we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.”
Later on, Freidman added, “Other teams believe the Capitals are in total ‘go for it’ mode.”
This rumor comes one day after the team traded defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas to clear $3.395 million in cap space. The Capitals now have $12,480,706 to spend in free agency and/or trades. Forward Brett Connolly, forward Carl Hagelin, defenseman Brooks Orpik, and forward Devante Smith-Pelly can all become unrestricted free agents on July 1 while forwards Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitrij Jaskin, Chandler Stephenson, and defenseman Christian Djoos can each become restricted free agents that same day.
Freidman indicated on Friday morning after the Capitals traded Niskanen that they could be preparing to use some of that extra money to re-sign Hagelin, who recorded three goals, 11 points, and a +7 rating in 20 games with the team after they acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on February 21. Hagelin also averaged 2:21 on a penalty-kill that was 80% effective after he arrived compared to 78.4% (22nd in the NHL) before he got to Washington.
It would not be a stunner if WASH used some of this newly-created cap space to re-up Carl Hagelin (pending whatever else GM Brian MacLellan is up to).
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 14, 2019
With Niskanen, the Capitals’ top trade chip this offseason, gone, the list of players who could be on the move is relatively short. Jaskin was almost waived prior to the trade deadline in order to accommodate cap space for Hagelin (Smith-Pelly ultimately got the ax) and did not play another game with the team after February 17. But trading him will not likely net something as big in return that the Capitals might be looking for.
Trade rumors also swirled around Burakovsky for most of the season as he struggled for most of it. While he played better down the stretch, the 24-year old finished with only 12 goals, 25 points, and a +2 rating in 76 games. He has been a healthy scratch for a handful of games in each of his five NHL seasons and will be required a qualifying offer of at least $3.25 million for the Capitals to retain him, a price that can be too hefty for a player who has struggled to produce consistently throughout his NHL career.
General Manager Brian MacLellan hinted after the season that changes could be coming to the bottom-six forward group after they combined for just five goals (one came on a penalty shot) in the Capitals’ seven-game series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Additionally, center Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby can each become unrestricted free agents on July 1, 2020, and can sign contract extensions as soon as July 1. Captain Alex Ovechkin can also sign a contract extension as soon as July 1, 2020, so it is possible that MacLellan will look to move more cap space out in the forseeable future.
With the NHL Draft approaching next week, it is possible that MacLellan and the Capitals have more moves up their sleeves. Stay tuned.
By Harrison Brown