Photo: Fox Sports
Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan stated recently that he will likely have to make a trade in order to get below the NHL salary cap of $81.5 million before opening night on October 2. His team is currently $1,364,294 over that number. The two most likely candidates heading out the door are forward Chandler Stephenson, who signed a one-year contract worth $1.05 million on July 26, or defenseman Christian Djoos, who signed a one-year contract worth $1.25 million on July 24. NoVa Caps looks at five teams who could make for good trade partners for the Capitals to help them get under the salary cap.
The Ducks have had a hole on their blue line since trading Brendan Montour to the Buffalo Sabres on February 24 and desperately need some help up front after finishing last in the NHL with 196 goals last season.
Adding the 25-year-old Stephenson would help the Ducks in both areas as he is known for his two-way game and showed offensive potential with the AHL’s Hershey Bears at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, where he scored five goals and six points in six games. Stephenson would also bring some speed to Anaheim.
Acquiring Djoos would give them another option to plug into their top-four defense core. Djoos played well when given a chance to play in the Capitals’ top-four before they acquired Michal Kempny in 2017-18, and he appeared in 22 of the team’s 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2017. This could be a low-risk, high-potential play for Anaheim to add depth to their defense.
The Ducks currently have a little more than $8.5 million remaining in cap space, so they would have plenty of space to make a trade.
New York Rangers
While some may think that the Capitals would not deal within the Metropolitan Division, they dealt two key contributors in defenseman Matt Niskanen and forward Marcus Johansson to the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, respectively, in the past two years. So, why wouldn’t they want to make a minor trade with a division rival who will likely fall short of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season?
The Rangers’ top defense pair of Brady Skjei and Jacob Trouba is solid but there’s a big drop-off after that with rookie Adam Fox, who has never played an NHL game in his career, and Anthony DeAngelo, who has never played more than 61 games in a season of his NHL career, projected to be the second-pair. Adding Djoos to that mix would provide them with a more reliable option by turning to someone with a Stanley Cup under his belt and some good offensive potential.
Getting Stephenson would help improve a penalty-kill that was the fifth-worst in the NHL last season with an efficiency of 78.2% and would add to their mix of speed and youth up front. They might not be an ideal fit for Stephenson because their fourth-line for the upcoming season is already set, but it remains a possibility.
The Rangers currently have $1,010,201 so they would likely have to put someone on waivers to make this work.
The Oilers need help on the wing and on defense as only one of their wingers had more than 11 goals last season (Alex Chiasson: 22). While Stephenson would not likely be the solution to that problem, a team like the Oilers (who have $21 million committed to their top two centers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) could take a flyer on him. He would inject some speed into their forward group and help improve an Oilers’ penalty-kill that was 30th in the NHL last season with an efficiency of 74.8%. Stephenson, who earned a +13 rating in 2017-18, would also contribute defensively to a team that gave up 3.30 goals-per-game last season, tied with the Devils for the sixth-most in the NHL.
The Oilers could also use some help on defense as they really struggled without Oscar Klefbom when he was out last season. Djoos’ offensive potential could intrigue the Oilers as they only had one defenseman with more than five goals last season (Darnell Nurse, 10).
Edmonton currently has $2,433,001 remaining in cap space.
The Flames lost rookie defenseman Juuso Valimaki, who was expected to make a big impact on their blueline this upcoming season, for the entire 2019-20 campaign due to a torn ACL. GM Brad Treliving has stated that the team is looking for a replacement via trade prior to opening night.
Since defenseman Jonas Seigenthaler appeared to leapfrog Djoos on the Capitals’ depth chart on defense as he played the last four games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in favor of Djoos, that makes the 25-year-old available. The Flames’ deep blue line would also boost Djoos’ value as he would be in great position to take the next step in his development if he plays with Oliver Kylington or fellow countryman Rasmus Andersson.
By trading Djoos to Calgary, the Capitals may maximize their return for him as the Flames would be more desperate than most teams due to the injury to Valimaki.
The Flames might not be the best fit for Stephenson, but he would be an upgrade over forwards Byron Froese and Dillon Dube on their fourth-line. Another reason the Flames might find Stephenson attractive is because he would help their penalty-kill, which was tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks for 19th in the NHL with an efficiency of 79.7%.
The Flames currently have $7,756,625 remaining in cap though, though they still have to re-sign restricted free agent forward Matthew Tkachuk. However, Djoos and Stephenson’s cap hits as well as what they would do for the team could make Calgary a good trading partner for the Capitals.
The Canadiens’ blue line depth is a concern as Shea Weber has struggled to stay healthy in the past two seasons and there is a big drop off after him. Montreal added Ben Chiarot in free agency to bolster their depth but that is likely not enough to satisfy their need.
Djoos would not solve the problem but he would improve the situation. After Weber (14) and Jeff Petry (13), no other defenseman on the Canadiens got more than six goals. With Djoos likely to get paired with Petry or Victor Mete in Montreal, that would likely change. If Djoos breaks out offensively, he could earn an opportunity to help turn around a Canadiens’ power-play that finished 30th in the NHL (13.2% efficiency) with the offensive upside that he has.
Stephenson could bolster Montreal’s fourth-line and chip in on a penalty kill that was in the middle of the pack last season (80.9%). He would also add speed to a Canadiens’ forward group that already has fast players like Max Domi and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
The Canadiens currently have $4,044,524 left in cap space, enough to make a trade involving Djoos or Stephenson work. Another reason this could work out is because Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has history with MacLellan, trading center Lars Eller and defenseman Jakub Jerabek to the Capitals in the past.
By Harrison Brown