Looking At The Capitals’ Best UFA Options At Forward

NHL: APR 05 Stars at BlackhawksPhoto NHL via Getty Images

After the Washington Capitals scored only eight goals in their five-game loss in the first-round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is clear that the team could use another forward, especially with Ilya Kovalchuk likely walking out the door as an unrestricted free agent.

GM Brian MacLellan told the media earlier this week that the top priority in terms of roster movement would be defense but the team may want to consider adding another forward in the middle-six, especially with an aging core. The team will enter the offseason with $10,394,872 in cap space and 16 players under contract, including 11 forwards. With that in mind, NoVa Caps looks at the Capitals’ best options up front in this fall’s unrestricted free agent market.

Currently Projected 2020-21 Forward Lineup

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana — Nicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin — Lars Eller — UFA signing

Garnet Hathaway — Nic Dowd — Richard Panik

Extra: Travis Boyd, Beck Malenstyn

The Capitals are already looking pretty good upfront. If they want, they could sign a forward with top-six potential to take some pressure off a talented but aging core. They could also move Panik back up a line, but he fit in well on the fourth-line after being inserted there after acquiring Kovalchuk from the Montreal Canadiens at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, making it appear that the fourth-line is the best place to play him. They could also give Boyd, who played well during the regular season when given the opportunity with three goals, 10 points, and a +9 rating in only 24 games, a promotion, but the team does not appear to trust him as much.

UFA Options

Vladislav Namestnikov

The 27-year-old had a nice season as he posted 17 goals, 31 points, and a -5 rating in 65 regular-season games with the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche. At five-on-five, he recorded a 44.73% Corsi-for percentage, a 46.91% expected goals-for percentage, a 46.54% scoring-chances for percentage, and a 44.3% shot-attempts percentage.

Namestnikov could be looked up to as a middle-six forward and could play in the top-six to take some pressure off of Oshie and others as they are getting on the older side. He recorded 93 hits, 39 blocked shots, 23 giveaways, and 22 giveaways while averaging 15:08 worth of ice-time per game, including 1:55 while shorthanded and 1:42 on the power-play.

Namestnikov will likely get a short-term contract since he got bounced around a lot over the last year, but MacLellan could give him a longer-term one to lure him to Washington as he did with Panik and Hathaway in summer 2019. He will likely cost around $3.5 million per season against the salary cap.

Carl Soderberg

The 34-year-old recorded 17 goals, 35 points, and a +6 rating in 70 games in his lone season with the Arizona Coyotes in 2019-20 after getting acquired in a trade with the Avalanche last offseason. He tallied a 46.35% Corsi-for percentage, a 47.34% expected goals-for percentage, a 45.74% scoring chances-for percentage, and a 46.3% SAT percentage at five-on-five.

Soderberg had 77 hits, 41 blocked shots, 24 giveaways, and 28 giveaways while averaging 15:54 per game, including 2:09 on the power-play and 0:55 on the penalty kill. Even though he is a center and the Capitals have enough, he would still be a solid addition. Perhaps the Capitals could move Eller up to the second-line center role and Kuznetsov to the wing with Soderberg aboard.

Even though he is on the wrong side of 30, Soderberg still proved he could play this past season, and a two-year deal may not be such a bad idea. Soderberg’s next cap hit will likely be in the $4.5 million range.

Image 8-27-20 at 12.38 PM

Mattias Janmark

The 27-year-old center posted six goals, 21 points, and a -5 rating with the Dallas Stars during the regular season. He has been a negative plus-minus player for each of the past three seasons but Janmark posted a 51.18% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.44% Fenwick-for percentage, and a 54.57% expected goals percentage this past season and the Stars are known for being among the league’s worst when it comes to offense.

Janmark isn’t as reliable defensively as Smith but most (134) of the draws he took were in the neutral zone. He would likely slot somewhere among the Capitals’ bottom-six forwards, probably the third-line to make the trio a strong checking line. He is in his prime, and MacLellan gave Panik and Hathaway more term to drop their price tags, so it is possible he would take the same route should the Capitals pursue Janmark. Hathaway and Panik were a year older than Janmark when they signed with Washington. He also averages 1:38 per game on the penalty kill, third among Stars’ forwards.

Janmark’s cap hit will likely be around the $1.75 million range.

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Jesper Fast

The 28-year-old had a nice season in the Big Apple, earning 12 goals, 29 points, and a +16 rating in 69 regular-season games with the New York Rangers in 2019-20. He also had a 48.02% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.35 expected goals-for percentage, a 49.76% scoring chances-for percentage, and a 47.9% SAT percentage at five-on-five.

Fast posted 125 hits (third on the Rangers), 53 hits, 24 takeaways, and 32 giveaways while averaging 16:36 per game, including 2:21 while shorthanded. He would likely slot in on the Capitals’ third-line, taking Kovalchuk’s spot.

Fast will likely make between $2-3 million per season on his next contract.

Image 8-27-20 at 12.43 PM

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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