As the midway point of the season has come and gone, it’s time to check in on how the Washington Capitals‘ offseason moves are looking so far. GM Brian MacLellan had a busy offseason after the Capitals’ first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the focus being on improving defensive play and switching up the bottom-six forward group. NoVa Caps grades MacLellan’s moves from this past offseason.
Richard Panik – Four Years At $2.75 Million
The Capitals brought Panik in to improve the penalty kill and replace forward Brett Connolly on the third-line after he signed a four-year contract with the Florida Panthers. Things didn’t start out well for the 28-year old as he was held scoreless in his first four games but are starting to get better as he has three goals and five points in his last 10 games. He hasn’t been as impactful defensively as the Capitals hoped he would be with only 10 takeaways, 15 giveaways, 11 blocked shots, and 38 hits and has only averaged only 42 seconds worth of ice-time per game on the penalty kill. The highlight of his season so far was a spectacular no-look pass to set up Carl Hagelin’s first goal of the year
Garnet Hathaway – Four Years At $1.5 Million Per Season
The Capitals signed the 28-year old to make the fourth-line tougher to play against and bolster the penalty-killing unit, where he has averaged 1:25 per game. He is among the team leaders in hits (106 – fourth), takeaways (16 – T-8th), giveaways (11 – fourth), and blocked shots (29 – 10th). In addition, Hathaway has been able to chip on offensively as he has six goals and 12 points in 40 games.
Brendan Leipsic – One Year At $700K
Leipsic was brought in to add some energy, physicality, and scoring depth to the fourth-line and he has done just that so far with three goals, 10 points, a +7 rating, seven takeaways, 34 hits, and 12 blocked shots despite averaging the lowest amount of ice-time on the Capitals (9:18 per game). Though, he has given away the puck 20 times. Leipsic has been a pain to play against and that’s exactly what the Capitals needed.
Radko Gudas ($1.005 Million Retained) – Acquired From Philadelphia Flyers In Exchange For Matt Niskanen
The Capitals decided to trade the 33-year old Niskanen after a down season as they thought that his play began to decline last season and wanted more cap space to re-sign forward Carl Hagelin, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent in a couple weeks time. The trade has been pretty even so far but the Capitals were able to shed $3.4 million in cap space, got the younger defenseman, and got the Flyers to retain some of Gudas’ salary. Gudas leads the Capitals with a +18 rating.
Carl Hagelin – Four Years At $2.75 Million Per Season
The Capitals re-signed the 31-year old, who missed 11 games with an upper-body injury earlier this season, after he impressed with three goals, 11 points, and a +7 rating in 20 games with the team, who acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on February 21. Hagelin has averaged 3:04, on the league’s third-best penalty kill, the second-highest on the team (defenseman Jonas Seigenthaler – 3:12) which clicks at an 83.3% rate. While he only has a goal and nine points through 32 games, Hagelin’s average of 0.9 takeaways per game is tied for ninth and he has nine blocked shots, only 14 giveaways, and 14 hits.
Second, Third-Round Picks Acquired From Colorado Avalanche In Exchange For Andre Burakovsky
After Capitals granted the 24-year old trade request in order to get top-six ice time, Burakovsky has enjoyed a breakout season with 13 goals, which are already more than his total from last season, and 25 points, which is equal to his production in each of the past two seasons in only 40 games. While you may be inclined to give the Capitals a low grade for this move, you can only give a player so many chances before it’s time for a change and Burakovsky didn’t live up to his 25, 30-goal potential in Washington and what the Capitals got in the trade was arguably a good return at the time the trade was made.
Fifth-Round Pick Acquired From Vegas Golden Knights In Exchange For Chandler Stephenson
The Capitals dealt the 25-year old to make room under the NHL salary cap for Hagelin to be activated from long-term injured reserve but waited too long to move him and just got a low draft pick in return. Like Burakovsky, Stephenson has seen a spike in his production following his trade as he has five goals, nine points, and a +11 rating in 16 games with the Golden Knights after posting three goals, four points, and a +5 rating in 24 games with the Capitals.
By Harrison Brown