Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
With Tom Wilson set to be out until at least Thanksgiving after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL in late May and T.J. Oshie proving that he cannot remain durable for a full season, the Washington Capitals have a need of a top-six right-wing to fill this offseason. NoVa Caps looks at the top options available.
Unrestricted Free Agency
The 27-year-old requested the Toronto Maple Leafs to trade him mid season but the team did not comply with his request. Mikheyev, likely the best option on this list, finished with 21 goals and 32 points in 53 regular-season games and two goals and four points in the Maple Leafs’ seven-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He averaged 1:24 on the penalty kill (fourth among Maple Leafs’ forwards) and 1:06 on the power play (11th on his team) in 2021-22. Previously, Mikheyev, who tallied a 57.08% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage this past campaign, earned 15 goals and 40 points in 93 games over his first two seasons. He will likely cost around $3.5 million against the NHL salary cap on his next contract.
The 27-year-old defensive specialist shattered his previous career-highs with 25 goals and 52 points in 62 games with the Colorado Avalanche this past season after his goal output was in double digits while his point total was in the 20s each of the previous two. He also earned a 56.27% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage. During his team’s run to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, Nichushkin has five goals and nine points in 14 games. Nichushkin, who will likely cost close to $5 million per season on his next deal, averaged 2:20 on the power-play (sixth on Colorado) and 1:45 on the penalty kill (fourth among Avalanche forwards).
The 26-year-old, who notched 18 goals, 47 points, and a 63.41% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage (20th in NHL) in just 54 regular-season games for the Florida Panthers before earning three goals in 10 postseason games, is listed as a left-wing but can play right-wing as well. Marchment has 20 goals and 58 points in 91 career NHL games with the Panthers and Maple Leafs. He averaged 52 seconds on the power play (14th on Florida). While Marchment had a productive season, his lack of NHL experience and the fact that he was on an offense that averaged more than four goals-per-game over the regular season will bring his cap hit to around $3-4 million per season when his pay day comes.
The 28-year-old tallied 18 goals, 32 points, and a 53.19% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five in 71 regular-games with the Panthers and New York Rangers, including eight goals and 13 points after getting dealt to the Big Apple, before earning four goals and 12 points in 18 games during the Rangers’ run to the Eastern Conference Final. Vatrano, a natural center even though he has not played much of it in his NHL career, has scored at least 16 goals in each of the previous four seasons and his 26 points in 56 games in 2020-21 marked the only time he failed to hit 30 over that span. He averaged 49 seconds on the power play during the regular season due to the deep offenses of the Panthers and Rangers. Vatrano will likely cost around $3 million per season on his next contract, though could make a bit more with the postseason success that he has enjoyed this Spring.
The 29-year-old finished the 2021-22 season with 20 goals, 41 points, and a 51.95% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 70 games with the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, including four goals and 13 points in 19 games in the Steel City after getting dealt. Rakell played just two postseason games, getting held off of the scoresheet in both instances. He has earned at least 31 points in all but one of his eight NHL seasons and hit the 30-goal mark twice with the Ducks from 2016-18 (33 in 2016-17 and 34 the following season). Though his production tallied off since, the Ducks turned into a top contender in the Western Conference to a lottery team over that span. Rakell, who’s next cap hit will likely come around $3.5 million and played center in Anaheim, averaged 2:17 on the man advantage this past year.
The 29-year-old cashed in with 16 goals, 30 points, and a 51.95% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 75 games with the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars this past campaign, including just three goals and five points in 15 games in the ‘Big D.’ He added a goal and two points in the Stars’ seven-game first-round exit against the Calgary Flames. Namestnikov, who has hit the 10-goal mark in all but one of his eight career NHL seasons where he played in at least 42 games and 28-point pleateau all but twice, averaged 26 seconds on the power play but 1:24 on the penalty kill this past season. He will likely cash in at around $2 million against the salary cap.
In 58 regular-season games with the Seattle Kraken and Toronto Maple Leafs, the 29-year-old earned 10 goals and 20 points, his second consecutive season hitting each benchmark despite playing on four teams in the past three seasons, in addition to a 47.62% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage. Blackwell, who averaged 20 seconds on the man advantage and 58 with a man short this past season, is a natural center but has primarily played right-wing in his three NHL seasons. He added a goal and two points in the Maple Leafs’ first-round exit and will likely cost around $1.75 million per season on his next deal.
The 28-year-old set career-highs in goals (19), assists (24), points (43), and plus-minus (+3) while playing 82 games this past season in Pittsburgh. Rodrigues also tallied a 57.66% expected goals-for percentage (78th). He added three goals and five points in seven postseason outings. Rodrigues hit the double-digit goal plateau for the first time in 2021-22 and previously met the 25-point benchmark twice (25 in 48 games with the Buffalo Sabres in 2017-18 and 29 in 74 the following season). He averaged 1:55 per game on the Penguins’ power-play unit and 25 seconds on their penalty kill. Rodrigues’ next paycheck will usually come in at around $3.75 million annually.
David Pastrnak — Boston Bruins
The 26-year-old, who has one season left on a contract that counts less than $6.67 against the salary cap before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency, hit the 40-goal mark for the second time in three seasons and averaged more than a point-per-game (77 in 72) for the fourth straight. With the Bruins entering a rebuild, they could deal the Czech superstar if he does not want to re-sign with them on July 17. Pastrnak tied Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin for the goal-scoring title in 2019-20 with he hit 48, though in two more games. He averaged 3:33 on the Bruins’ man advantage this past season and earned three goals and six points in the team’s first-round exit against the Carolina Hurricanes last month. Besides the shortened 2020-21 campaign, Pastrnak has hit at least the 34-goal benchmark and 70-point mark in five straight 82-game NHL seasons. The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa suggested that the package to acquire Pastrnak would have to include a first-round pick, a second-round pick, a young NHL player, and a high-end prospect. If the Capitals could acquire Pastrnak, who’s 60.12% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage ranked 46th in the league, he would certainly help try to salvage at least one more Stanley Cup from the Ovechkin era and extending his contract would be a step in the right direction towards achieving that goal.
Jesse Puljujarvi — Edmonton Oilers
There has been speculation that the 24-year-old, who recorded career-highs with 22 assists, 36 points, and a 58.58% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage (37th) in 65 games in 2021-22, could be on his way out of Edmonton. Puljujarvi added two goals and three points in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games and has 29 goals in 120 games over the last two seasons. He also earned 12 goals and 20 points in 65 games during his rookie season in 2017-18. Puljujarvi played 1:28 on the power play (sixth among Oilers forwards) this past season. He can become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights on July 17 and could make around $4 million per year on his next deal. Puljujarvi could cost around the equivalent of two second-round picks to acquire via trade.
Here is a list the full compensation requirements depending on the cap hit that the offersheet features for the 2022-23 season:
Kevin Fiala — Minnesota Wild
Due to the cap penalties from the buy outs of right-wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter’s contracts last offseason, the Wild may be forced to move the 25-year-old who shattered his previous career-highs with 33 goals, 52 assists, 85 points, +23 rating, and 56.21% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 82 games in 2021-22. Fiala has hit the 20-goal mark and has averaged at least 0.80 points-per-game in each of his three seasons in Minnesota. He also scored 23 goals in 80 games with the Nashville Predators during the 2017-18 season. Fiala, who’s next contract will likely come in the $6 million range (though, the Capitals would have to high ball to get the Wild or anyone who holds an RFA’s rights’ hands tied), averaged 2:42 per game on the Wild’s power play last season and 55 seconds on their penalty kill. To acquire in a trade, Fiala would likely cost a first-round pick, a top-nine NHL forward, and a prospect.
Jesper Bratt — New Jersey Devils
The 23-year-old shattered his previous career-highs with 26 goals, 73 points, and a 56.86% expected goals-for percentage in 76 games this past season after earning between 30-35 points in each of his first four NHL campaigns. Bratt, who could cost $5 million on his next contract, averaged 2:43 on the Devils’ power play.
Brock Boeser — Vancouver Canucks
The 25-year-old has been on the trade rumor mill since the end of last season and has scored 23 goals in each of the past two seasons and between 45-49 points over each of the last three, including 46 in 71 games in 2021-22 when he also notched a 49.45% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage. Boeser, who could command around a $5.5-6 million cap hit on his next contract, averaged 3:05 on the Canucks’ power play last season.
Martin Necas — Hurricanes
The 23-year-old notched 14 goals, 40 points, and a 49.98% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 78 regular-season games before earning five helpers in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Necas, who averaged 1:39 on the power play and 1:18 on the penalty kill in 2021-22, has eclipsed around the 15-goal mark and 40-point plateau in each of the past three campaigns. He will likely make around $5.5 million per season on his next deal.
Kailer Yamamoto — Oilers
The 23-year-old managed to get 20 goals, 41 points, and a 48.76% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 81 regular-season games where he averaged 49 seconds on the power play and 1:09 on the penalty kill per game. Yamamoto added two goals and seven points in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games. This past season was Yamamoto’s second full one in the NHL. He hit the 20-point plateau in each of the previous two (including an 11-goal, 26-point output in 27 games two seasons ago). Yamamoto’s next contract could include a cap hit of around $4 million per season.
Mason Appleton — Winnipeg Jets
The 26-year-old earned eight goals, 21 points, and a 48.47% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 68 games with the Kraken and Jets last season while averaging 32 seconds on the power play and 46 shorthanded. During his first full campaign in 2020-21 in Winnipeg, Appleton tallied 12 goals and 25 points. His value likely comes in close to $2 million per season.
By Harrison Brown