With Nicklas Backstrom set to miss most, if not all of the 2022-23 NHL season, the Washington Capitals have a hole in the middle of their second-line. While Connor McMichael will eventually fill that slot, the team preferred him on the wing this past season and may opt for more experience in that position in attempt to salvage another Stanley Cup with their current core. Should the Capitals look elsewhere to replace Backstrom, here are their options:
Vincent Trocheck – The 28-year-old finished the 2021-22 campaign with 21 goals, 51 points, a 52.99% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 54.62% faceoff-winning percentage in 81 games with the Carolina Hurricanes. He has not finished a single season with a points-per-game average below .6 in the last seven seasons, including two where he earned averages of .91. Trocheck, who added six goals and 10 points in 14 postseason games, averaged 2:53 per game on the power play (third among Carolina forwards) and 1:46 on the penalty kill (also third). He could cost around $6 million against the NHL salary cap on his next deal.
Ryan Strome – The 28-year-old tallied 21 goals, 54 points, a 48.21% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 44.38% draw-winning percentage in 74 regular-season games before earning two goals and nine points in 19 postseason games this past year for the New York Rangers. Strome has hit the 30-point plateau in all but one of his eight NHL seasons (notched 28 in 71 games in 2015-16 with the New York Islanders) and has averaged .84, .88, and .73 points-per-game over his three full seasons with the Rangers. Strome, who could make around $5 million per year, averaged 2:47 on the man advantage and 32 seconds with a man down in 2021-22.
Nick Paul – The 27-year-old earned 16 goals, 32 points, a 48.31% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 56.02% faceoff-winning percentage in 80 games with the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning during the regular season before notching three goals and seven points in 17 games during Tampa Bay’s run to the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. Paul, who averaged 2:08 on the penalty kill during the regular season, put up 20 points in each of his first two full NHL seasons and could demand around $3 million on the open market.
Andrew Copp – The 27-year-old set NHL career-highs in goals (21), assists (32), and points (53) while posting a 52.23% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage and a 51.8% faceoff-winning percentage in 72 games with the Winnipeg Jets and Rangers before earning six goals and 14 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He also averaged 2:14 on the power play and 2:17 on the penalty kill. Before 2021-22, Copp set career-highs in goals (15), assists (24), and points (39) in 55 games in 2020-21 after earning between 9-11 goals and 25-28 points in each of the previous three seasons. He could demand a cap hit around $5.5 million.
Dylan Strome (Chicago Blackhawks) – Word on the street is that the Blackhawks are shopping the 25-year-old third overall pick from 2015, who tallied 22 goals, 48 points, a 48.87% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, a 52.3% faceoff-winning percentage, and an average of 2:42 of power-play ice-time per game in 69 games last season. Prior to 2021-22, the pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights earned 17 goals and 51 points in 58 games in 2018-19, 12 goals and 38 points in 58 games in 2019-20, and nine goals and 17 points in 40 games in 2020-21 (though, got tougher matchups with Jonathan Toews out for the season). Strome could want a cap hit of around $4 million and will likely cost a second-round pick and a third-round pick to acquire.
JT Miller (Vancouver Canucks) – The 29-year-old shattered his previous career-highs with 32 goals, 67 assists, 99 points, a 54.1% faceoff-winning percentage, and a 51.03% expected goals-for percentage in 80 games for the Vancouver Canucks but has one season left at a bargain $5.25 million remaining on his contract before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency. Miller has earned at least 43 points in each of his seven full NHL seasons and has averaged 1.04, .87, and 1.24 points-per-game, respectively, in his three years in Vancouver. He averaged 3:19 on the Canucks’ power play and 2:05 on their penalty kill this past season. Acquiring Miller would not be cheap as he will likely cost a first-round pick, a top prospect, a bottom-six forward, and a lower pick to lure in.
Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets) – The 29-year-old’s future in Winnipeg is uncertain after Scheifele, who has two years at $6.125 million per left on his deal, questioned it after the Jets missed the postseason for the first time since 2016. He earned 29 goals, 70 points, a 50.7% faceoff-winning percentage, and a 48.3% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in his sixth straight season averaging at least a point-per-game. Schiefele averaged 3:28 on the Jets’ power play this past season and would likely demand a slightly lower package than Miller would in a potential trade.
These are rare but could make sense if the compensation cost is reasonable. Here is a list with the full compensation requirements depending on the cap hit that the offersheet features for the 2022-23 season:
In such an instance, the Capitals would have to tender an offersheet that would not make it worth keeping a potential target for the player’s 2021-22 team. However, they could give the player just a one-year contract and re-sign him to an extension that comes with a more reasonable cap hit when he becomes eligible to either mid season or after it.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Jets – The 23-year-old notched 23 goals, 60 points, a 52.4% expected goals-for percentage, and a 46.87% faceoff-winning percentage in 81 games over his first full season in Winnipeg in 2021-22. Dubois, who averaged 3:07 on the Jets’ power play, has two seasons where he hit 25 goals and 60 points in addition to 48 points under his belt in his first five in the NHL. His market value could be around $5.5-6 million to sign.
Josh Norris, Senators – The 23-year-old tallied 35 goals, 55 points, a 51.06% faceoff-winning percentage, and a 47.03% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 66 games this past season, when he built on his 17-goal, 35-point rookie campaign. Norris averaged 3:14 on Ottawa’s power play and 34 seconds on their penalty kill in 2021-22 and would likely cost around $6-6.5 million to get under contract.
Mathieu Joseph, Senators – The 25-year-old, who was involved in the deal that sent Paul from Ottawa to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, finished 2021-22 with 12 goals, 30 points, a 45.46% winning percentage on draws, and a 51.49% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 69 games. He posted 25 goals and 45 points in 126 games over his first two full NHL seasons where he played more than 41 games but skated in just 37 during the 2019-20 season. Joseph averaged 2:00 per game when his team played down a man and will likely cost roughly $3 million to sign.
By Harrison Brown