After the Washington Capitals‘ fourth-line combined for just one goal (which came on a penalty shot) in the team’s seven-game first-round exit of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was clear that changes were in the offing. General Manager Brian MacLellan made two signings on the first day of NHL Free Agency in an effort to improve the Capitals’ forward depth. The first was forward Garnet Hathaway, who signed a four-year, $5 million contract ($1.5 million AAV) as an unrestricted free agent on Monday. NoVa Caps takes a closer look at Hathaway in part two of our three-part part series looking at the Capitals’ unrestricted free agent acquisitions this month.
Hathaway, an undrafted 27-year old, posted 11 goals, 19 points, a +14 rating, and 56 penalty minutes in 76 games with the Calgary Flames last season. This was his first full NHL season after bouncing between the Flames and the AHL’s Stockton Heat in each of his first three years as a pro. Hathaway finished the season playing on the third line after being a healthy scratch for each of the Flames’ first four games of the regular season. Despite working his way up the lineup, he just posted a -1 rating and 14 penalty minutes in the Flames’ five-game series loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Signed out of Brown University by the Flames prior to the 2015-16 season, Hathaway has recorded 16 goals, 40 points, and a +16 rating in 175 career NHL games. He never played more than 60 games prior to this past season. Hathaway has posted at least 31 penalty minutes in each of his first four NHL seasons. He recorded an NHL career-high 77 shots and 14.3% shooting percentage during the 2018-19 season. Notably, five of Hathaway’s 11 goals last year were game-winners.
Hathaway played an average of 1:42 per game on the penalty kill, the third-highest among Flames forwards, after averaging 1:06 of shorthanded ice-time in the 2017-18 season. Though the unit tied the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins for 19th in the NHL this past season, it produced a league-high 18 shorthanded goals with Hathaway accounting for two of those.
With Garnet Hathaway on the ice at five-on-five, the Calgary Flames saw a decrease in shot attempts against within 10 feet of their net relative to the NHL average. Graphics provided by @IneffectiveMath at https://t.co/fxR3jUTvi5 pic.twitter.com/OtXZUvED5H
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 1, 2019
Defensively, Hathaway led the Flames with 200 hits this past season, 79 more than the next highest total (which belonged to center Sam Bennett). In that regard, he will fit right in with the Capitals, joining Alex Ovechkin (223 hits) and Tom Wilson (200 hits) as another physical forward.
He was also credited with 36 blocked shots, 23 takeaways, and 29 giveaways. While his plus-minus rating from this past season was impressive, it was only tied for the 11th best on the team with forward Matthew Tkachuk.
Hathaway will likely start the 2019-20 season on the fourth line along with center Nic Dowd and fellow free-agent acquisition, forward Brendan Leipsic. After watching a big, physical team win the Stanley Cup in the St. Louis Blues, MacLellan added some sandpaper to his fourth-line as each member of the Capitals’ projected fourth-line for the upcoming season each averaged at least .9 hits-per-game last season.
Hathaway recorded a Corsi-for percentage (shots + blocks + misses for versus against) of less than 50% in three of his first four NHL seasons, posting a 49.47% Corsi-for this season. Hathaway has posted a Fenwick-for percentage (shots + misses for versus against) of 49.94% and has hit the 50% mark twice in his career when he recorded percentages of 54.4% and 52.3% in 2017-18 and 2015-16, respectively.
Hathaway did not earn any power-play time on the Flames this past season. Hathaway was able to create 79 scoring chances last season, with 37 of those coming in the high-danger scoring area, according to Natural Stattrick.
He has never been on the ice for more goals-against than goals-for in any of his three NHL seasons. After the differential between the two was neutral in each of his first two seasons, Hathaway improved to +2 and +11 in each of the last two, respectively. The Flames had 51.6% of scoring chances when Hathaway was on the ice this past season and he posted at least 56% more chances for in two of his first three seasons.
When Hathaway is on the ice, the Flames have generated 66.67% of the high-danger chances. They have hit at least the 50% mark when he’s on the ice three times in his four-year career, including 61.54% in 2017-18.
The Flames’ goaltenders have always posted save percentages of at least .924 when Hathaway is on the ice, including .944 this past season, which is impressive considering the Flames finished in the bottom half of the league in team percentage (.918 – 19th) this past season.
Hathaway has improved at drawing penalties every season. After his number of penalties drawn went up by one in between his first two NHL seasons, it went up by eight and seven in the next two seasons, respectively. It has been the same story with Hathaway’s hitting as it jumped from 50 in his first season to 56 in his second to 151 in his third before he posted 200 this past season.
Hathaway was primarily put on the ice in the neutral zone by head coach Bill Peters as 146 of his 357 (41%) of his zone starts have occurred there. Another 120 starts were in the offensive zone.
Hathaway should be able to come into Washington and provide much of the same things that forward Devante Smith-Pelly did during his tenure with the Capitals in addition to producing more offense. The Capitals brought him aboard to get more physicality from the fourth-line and improve their penalty kill, both defensively and offensively, after they finished 24th in the NHL with an efficiency of 78.9% and tied for 20th with only five shorthanded goals last season. If Hathaway can produce the way that he did with the Flames last season for the Capitals, then this fourth-line is going to give other teams fits and be hard to beat.
Previous Deeper Looks At The Capitals’ Offseason Acquisitions
By Harrison Brown