Photo: AZ Sports
With the NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 3 PM ET on Monday and the Washington Capitals still considering their options, NoVa Caps takes a look at possible fits. The team currently has just $378,456 cap space remaining and would need to make a trade to clear salary before bringing someone in.
We took a look at possible center targets earlier this month (here), so we will not look at centers in this piece. The Capitals have eight NHL defensemen on the roster, and with a lack of quality defensemen on the market, there is not much need for blueliners either.
Alex Iafallo – Los Angeles Kings
The 27-year-old has posted nine goals, 23 points, a -1 rating, a 53.01% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 49.4% expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.69% scoring chances-for percentage in 37 games this season and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 27.
Iafallo, who has posted at least 25 points in each of his first three NHL seasons, carries a $2.425 million cap hit. During those three seasons, the Kings rank 28th in the NHL with an average of 2.62 goals-per-game. He showed some scoring potential last season when he scored 17 goals in 70 games. Iafallo’s value would get a boost if he got dealt to a team with an offense like the Capitals’.
Iafallo has averaged 3:06 on the power play per game and 1:58 on the penalty kill.
Adding a forward of Iafallo’s caliber would help take some pressure off of forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie, who are all over age 33.
The Capitals would have to clear a little more money even after waiving forward Richard Panik to make such a deal work.
Chart: Tableau Public
Conor Garland – Arizona Coyotes
The 25-year-old has reportedly been placed on the trade block by the Coyotes. Garland has 10 goals, 30 points, a +3 rating, a 51.63% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 52.68% expected goals-for percentage, and a 50.11% scoring chances-for percentage. He can become a restricted free agent on July 27.
Garland has showed some scoring potential in his first three NHL seasons as he scored 13 goals in 47 games during the 2018-19 season and 22 in 68 games last season despite the Coyotes averaging just 2.70 goals-per-game (22nd) in that time. The Coyotes have also lacked a top-line center, so Garland could benefit going to a team with center depth as strong as the Capitals’.
Garland has averaged 3:06 of ice-time per game on the power play, third on the Coyotes this season. He could shift around and play anywhere in the Capitals’ top-nine forward group.
Garland makes only $775,000 this season, so the Capitals would not require to do a lot of salary cap gymnastics to acquire him.
Photo: Tableau Public
Scott Laughton – Philadelphia Flyers
The 26-year-old has posted seven goals, 17 points, a +8 rating, a 50% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 51.2% expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.88% scoring chances-for percentage in 36 games this season. Laughton can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Laughton has seen his offensive output increase in the past three seasons before this season as he went from averaging 0.25 points-per-game in 2017-18 to 0.39 in 2018-19 and 0.55 last season. He is on pace to hit a goal total in double digits for the fourth consecutive season.
Laughton has averaged 15:34 per game, including 1:55 on the penalty kill, this season. He has played in the Flyers’ top-six forward group at times and can be deployed anywhere.
Laughton carries a $2.3 million cap hit through the end of the season. Though, the Flyers may be unwilling to deal with a division rival and possible first-round opponent.
Photo: Tableau Public
Rickard Rakell – Anaheim Ducks
Out of all of the forward options, the 27-year-old appears the least likely but has a reasonable cap hit of $3.79 million for one more season before he can become an unrestricted free agent.
Rakell’s offensive output has decreased in each of the past three season’s but the Ducks’ average of 2.43 goals-per-game during that time is better than only the Detroit Red Wings (2.34). This season, he has posted seven goals, 22 points, a -8 rating, a 51.03% Corsi-for percentage, 48.41% expected goals-for percentage, and a 49.49% scoring chances-for percentage in 36 games.
Rakell hit the 30-goal and 50-point plateau in back-to-back seasons from 2016-18 when the Ducks made the Stanley Cup Playoffs both seasons, suggesting that he could put up strong numbers with the right offensive tools around him, which the Capitals certainly have.
Rakell leads all Ducks forwards with an average of 18:08 of ice-time per game while his 2:08 average power-play ice time per game only trails center Travis Zegras (2:11).
Photo: Tableau Public
Note: player cards were unavailable
Chris Driedger – Florida Panthers
The 26-year-old appears to be on the block with highly-touted prospect Spencer Knight just about ready to make the leap to the Panthers. Driedger carries an $850,000 cap hit through the end of the season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Driedger’s .930 save percentage is tied for third among goaltenders to play at least five games this season while his 2.05 goals-against average ranks fifth. He is 11-5-2 with two shutouts. This comes after he went 7-2-1 with a .938 save percentage, a 2.05 goals-against average, and two shutouts in his first NHL season last year.
At five-on-five, Driedger has recorded a .945 save percentage, a 1.61 goals-against average, a 10.88 goals-saved above average, a .826 high-danger save percentage, a 1.12 high-danger goals-against average, and a 0.41 high-danger goals-saved above average. While shorthanded, Driedger has posted a .892 save percentage and a 2.38 goals-saved above average.
While Driedger appears to fit the bill salary-wise for the Capitals, the price to get him maybe too expensive if the Capitals are satisfied with their tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek.
Anton Forsberg – Ottawa Senators
The 28-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and makes only a league-minimum $700,000 this season.
Forsberg is 1-2-1 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.99 goals-against average in four games with the Senators after the team claimed him from the Winnipeg Jets on March 17. He did not play a game for the Jets this season. Forsberg never posted a save percentage above .908 in each of his first five NHL seasons but has played more than five games in a season only once.
Forsberg has recorded a .929 save percentage, a 2.47 goals-against average, a 1.20 goals-saved above average, a .882 high-danger save percentage, a 1.24 high-danger goals-against average, and a 2.06 high-danger goals-saved above average at five-on-five this season. On the penalty kill, he has posted a .880 save percentage and a 0.51 goals-saved above average.
Out of the goaltenders listed, Forsberg may make the most sense as a taxi-squad goalie.
Linus Ullmark – Buffalo Sabres
The 27-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent after this season and carries a $2.6 million cap hit. As the Sabres are fielding calls on almost all of their players, Ullmark could be a fit for the Capitals.
Ullmark is 8-6-3 with a .916 save percentage and a 2.62 goals-against average this season after a breakout 2019-20 campaign where he went 17-14-3 with a .915 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and one shutout.
At five-on-five, Ullmark has tallied a .935 save percentage, a 1.95 goals-against average, a 7.26 goals-saved above average, a .862 high-danger save percentage, a 0.90 high-danger goals-against average, and a 3.77 high-danger goals-saved above average. While shorthanded, Ullmark has posted an .867 save percentage and a 0.64 goals-saved above average.
Similar to the case with Driedger, except Ullmark is more expensive, it would not make much sense for the Capitals to acquire him if they would use him as their third or taxi squad goalie.
David Rittich – Calgary Flames
The 28-year-old has gone 4-7-1 with a .904 save percentage, a 2.90 goals-against average, and one shutout this season after receiving a demotion from the Flames once they signed Jacob Markstrom in free agency last October.
Rittich can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and could be on the move with the Flames eight points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot with the Montreal Canadiens having three games in hand on them in the North Division. With Louis Domingue as their No. 3 goalie, the Flames could part with Rittich.
At five-on-five, Rittich has recorded a .917 save percentage, a 2.51 goals-against average, a -0.57 goals-saved above average, a .831 high-danger save percentage, a 1.20 high-danger goals-against average, and a 0.66 high-danger goals-saved above average. While shorthanded, Rittich has notched an .825 save percentage and a -1.39 goals-saved above average.
Rittich has been linked to the Capitals in recent weeks even though it may not make sense for a team fighting the salary cap to spend much for a No. 3 goalie.
By Harrison Brown