After a third consecutive first-round playoff exit, Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said he was open to trading any player that would make the team better, with the exception of captain Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom. With the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft looming on July 17, teams done for the season have already been discussing trades.
A lot has changed in the past couple months since the trade deadline due to deals made, the upcoming expansion draft, the flat salary cap for five more seasons, and another disappointing spring run. For this post we take a look at possible trade pieces for the Capitals and place each player currently on the Capitals’ roster into trade tiers.
Alex Ovechkin (RW) – The 35-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent on July 28 but there is no reason to believe he will not re-sign. Ovechkin led the Capitals in goals (24) and recorded 42 points in 45 games this past season. The team cannot imagine the Great Eight breaking Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals in another uniform (Ovechkin will enter next season 164 goals behind the all-time mark).
Nicklas Backstrom (C) – The 33-year-old just wrapped up the first season of a five-year extension and led the team in assists (38) and points (53) in 55 games. As the franchise’s all-time assist leader and Ovechkin’s wingman, Backstrom will retire as a Capital.
Very Likely Staying
John Carlson (RHD) – MacLellan said that anyone besides Ovechkin and Backstrom is up for discussion but it is highly unlikely that he will move the 31-year-old. Carlson’s production this past season of 10 goals and 44 points in 52 games did not replicate his from a season ago when he was the runner-up for the Norris Trophy but he improved defensively.
T.J. Oshie (RW) – After rumors have linked the 34-year-old to the Seattle Kraken due to his roots (from Everett, Washington), MacLellan stated that he does not want to let Oshie go after a 22-goal, 43-point output in 53 games this season. He has recorded at least 18 goals and 47 points in each of his six seasons in Washington and shows no signs of slowing down.
Anthony Mantha (LW) – Considering that the Capitals gave up a lot to acquire the 26-year-old and that Mantha is the youngest forward in the team’s top-six forward group, it would be a surprise to see him go. After a four-goal, five-point run during a four-game goal-scoring streak at the beginning of his tenure in Washington, Mantha’s production dipped to three assists in 10 games but not for the lack of playing level or chances.
Tom Wilson (RW) – The 27-year-old’s production also dropped after returning from a seven-game suspension but he finished the season with 13 goals and 33 points in 47 games. Wilson is expected to be the Capitals’ next captain after Ovechkin hangs up his skates and he is one of the best power forwards in the game with his ability to change the momentum with his production and physicality.
Martin Fehervary (LHD) – With Zdeno Chara not expected to be re-signed and MacLellan expressing the desire to insert younger players into the lineup, the 21-year-old is expected to be on the NHL roster full-time. Fehervary recorded three goals, 17 points, and a +10 rating in 24 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears this season.
Ilya Samsonov (G) – In his first season as the Capitals’ No. 1 goalie, the 24-year-old played well for the majority of it when healthy but was inconsistent as he went 13-4-1 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and two shutouts. Samsonov is expected to be the franchise’s goalie for the future.
Dmitry Orlov (LHD) – The 29-year-old turned in one of his best seasons with the Capitals as he posted eight goals, 22 points, and a team-leading +16 rating while averaging 19:49, including 42 seconds on the power play and 36 seconds on the penalty kill, in 51 games. Orlov was admirable defensively with a 52.02% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.96% expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.14% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five this season. He will likely stay but with him taking a large chunk of the salary cap ($5.1 million), it would be not impossible for the Capitals to consider their options with him.
Staying Unless A Good Offer Is Made
Conor Sheary (LW) – The 29-year-old was one of the team’s most consistent goal-scorers this season when he recorded 14 goals and 22 points in 53 games. Considering the Capitals just extended Sheary and he has one of the best value contracts on the team at $1.5 million for the next two seasons, he will likely stay put unless the Capitals get the right offer.
Daniel Sprong (RW) – The 24-year-old’s 13 goals were tied for fifth on the team. He also came close to averaging half a point-per-game (20 in 42) despite being in and out of the lineup. His 20 points set a career-high while his 13 goals were one short of his career-best set in 47 games in 2018-19 with the Anaheim Ducks. Sprong’s 1.59 goals-per-60 minutes this season was tied for 13th best in the NHL. Given that he was one of the team’s most consistent goal scorers and on a very team-friendly deal, Sprong is not expected to go. However, he has been traded twice in less than three years.
Nic Dowd (C) – The 31-year-old excelled this season while centering the Capitals’ shut-down line. Dowd had his best offensive season as well with 11 goals and 15 points. He will not likely walk out the door but with him entering the final season of his contract, the Capitals could be open to listening if someone were to inquire about him.
Garnet Hathaway (RW) – The 29-year-old finished the season with six goals and 18 points in 56 games and plays a crucial role on the team’s shut-down line. Hathaway came just one point shy of his career-high in points in 20 fewer games than when he had his personal best with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19. As one of the team’s best defensive forwards, Hathaway is not expected to go anywhere.
Trevor Van Riemsdyk (RHD) – The 29-year-old just signed a two-year contract extension in March but only played in 20 games with the Capitals. With three right-handed defensemen above him on the depth chart and Van Riemsdyk likely in a top-six on most teams, perhaps the Capitals could be open to moving him.
Nick Jensen (RHD) – The 30-year-old turned in his best season as a Capital, where he tallied two goals, 14 points, a +5 rating. He recorded a 50.24% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 53.58% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.5% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage while averaging 17:18 per game, including 2:38 on the penalty kill in 53 games. However, as a bottom-pairing defensive who will turn 31 in July, the Capitals could be willing to listen on Jensen.
Carl Hagelin (LW) – The 32-year-old was part of the team’s shut-down line and played a critical role on a penalty kill that ranked fifth in the NHL with an 84% efficiency, where he averaged 2:34 per game (most among Capitals’ forwards). He recorded six goals, 16 points, and a +7 rating in 56 games. Hagelin’s $2.75 million cap hit could be viewed as too much for a fourth-liner and could be considered in a deal to clear some cap space if needed.
Brenden Dillon (LHD) – The 30-year-old recorded two goals, 19 points, and a +15 rating while averaging 18:57 per game (including 1:47 while shorthanded) in 56 games. Dillon also finished with a 50.40% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.56% expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.97% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five. As someone who fits into the team’s physical style of play, Dillon is likely staying but could be someone the Capitals would listen on if the return is right.
Vitek Vanecek (G) – The 25-year-old could be on his way out with the expansion draft looming and Samsonov’s high ceiling. After he went 21-10-4 with a .908 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and two shutouts, the Capitals could look to trade him before the draft to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing.
Lars Eller (C) – The 32-year-old tallied eight goals and 23 points in 44 games but struggled to stay healthy and is getting up there in age. With center prospect Connor McMichael expected to make the jump to the NHL full-time this or next season, Eller could be on the block but the return will need to be significant.
Justin Schultz (RHD) – The 31-year-old finished with three goals, 27 points, and a +12 rating in 46 games but his production fell off after a fast start, he carries a high cap hit ($4 million), and enters the final year of his deal. Schultz struggled defensively, posting a 49.14% Corsi-for percentage, a 48.25% expected goals-for percentage, and a 49.25% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five this season. Perhaps the Capitals could move on if they find another top-four right-handed defenseman that they like on the trade or free-agent market.
In Hot Water
Evgeny Kuznetsov (C) – It is widely known that the Capitals are frustrated with the 29-year-old after he ended up on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol twice this season, tested positive for cocaine last season, and has seen his production decline in each of the past three years after leading the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 32 points. His $7.8 million cap hit for the next four seasons will not be easy to move but parting with Kuznetsov, who finished with just nine goals and 29 points in 41 regular-season games and no points in three Stanley Cup Playoff games this season, could be necessary for the organization.
By Harrison Brown