Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
With the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline just two weeks away from this upcoming Monday, the Washington Capitals will have the opportunity to improve the roster with their current Stanley Cup window likely nearing its end. NoVa Caps takes a look at pieces that the team may be willing to offer up ahead of March 21.
GM Brian MacLellan told the media earlier this week that he wants to improve the third-line (since right-wing T.J. Oshie and left-wing Anthony Mantha have both missed significant time this season) and possibly goaltending, if it makes the Capitals significantly better. With left-wing Carl Hagelin likely out for the rest of the season, the Capitals could look to replace him on the fourth-line and penalty-kill, where he averaged 1:54 (second among Capitals forwards).
MacLellan sounded reluctant to part with the team’s first-round pick this July but may be open to it as part of the right deal. The Capitals will keep an eye towards the future with the clock close to midnight on their Stanley Cup window since numerous top-six forwards are in their mid-30s.
The Capitals will likely have to move some salary to make any significant noise since they have just $155,834 in trade deadline salary cap space.
C Lars Eller – Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas have both played well this season but Protas got sent down to the AHL’s Hershey Bears while McMichael has been in and out of the Capitals’ lineup since they have gotten healthier. With more youth needed, the 32-year-old, who has eight goals and 22 points in 49 games this season, could be made available. Though, the Capitals may need help on the penalty kill if Eller were to be shipped out as he averages 1:39 with a man down (third-most among forwards).
LW Carl Hagelin – The 33-year-old, who ranks second among the team’s forwards with an average of 1:54 penalty-killing time per game, could miss the rest of the season after undergoing eye surgery earlier this week. Despite doing a lot of heavy lifting defensively, Hagelin has struggled to finish this season as he has just three goals in 53 games. Though, he tallied a goal and seven points in his final 10 games before sustaining the injury. With another year left at $2.75 million, expensive for a fourth-line forward, the Capitals may look to shed his contract but would need a replacement on the penalty kill. Left-wing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby could be that guy.
G Ilya Samsonov – After Vitek Vanecek shut out the top team in the Eastern Conference with 36 saves in a 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, it appears that he has taken the reigns in the goal crease. The 26-year-old is 11-7-5 with a .920 save percentage, a 2.26 goals-against average, and three shutouts this season, including 6-4-0 with a .934 save percentage and a 1.95 goals-against average since December 16.
Meanwhile, Samsonov has gone 6-8-2 with an .889 save percentage and a 3.36 goals-against average since December 9 and is 17-9-3 with a .901 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average this season. Zach Fucale has also made a case to be on the NHL roster as he went 1-0-1 with a .980 save percentage and a 0.42 goals-against average in his first three career appearances before getting pulled in a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on January 10, when he allowed four goals on 16 shots. He has not played since but deserves another chance after putting up sparkling numbers in his first three games. If the Capitals see an opportunity to upgrade at goalie or forward for the right price and Samsonov’s included in that package, it may make sense to throw him in.
Others – The Capitals could also be willing to move third-pairing defenseman Justin Schultz, but will likely need to sweeten the pot to move his $4 million cap hit. Since his contract is set to expire after the season, it may not be worth trading the second or third-round pick to off-load.
GM Brian MacLellan indicated this week that he thought the Capitals may be less active at this year’s trade deadline when compared to previous seasons. He also stated he was less inclined to deal top prospects. This may signify a change in philosophy, as previously MacLellan stated the Capitals were “all in” during the final years of the Ovechkin-Backstrom era, indicating anybody but Ovechkin and Backstrom could be dealt if the deal was right. It could also be pre-trade deadline posturing, which is fairly common.
The players highlighted below are prospects that the Capitals will most likely want to keep unless the deal is too good to pass up. [Click to enlarge]
Regarding draft picks, the Capitals will likely be open to trading anything other than their first-round pick in the right deal. They may be hesitant to move their second as well.
Here are the picks that the Capitals currently have, according to CapFriendly:
As previously noted, it’s always a challenge trying to read between the lines to determine what is pre-deadline posturing and what is concrete fact when it comes to MacLellan’s media sessions. We’ll find out for sure in the next two weeks.
By Harrison Brown