Top NHL Centers On The Market This Offseason

Photo: NHL.com

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:

UFA

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.

Trade

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.

RFA Offersheets

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:

Photo: Sportsnet

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

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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19 Responses to Top NHL Centers On The Market This Offseason

  1. Anonymous says:

    We will definitely need to add a center, preferably someone who can play wing if/when Backy returns and/or C-Mac is up to speed at center. If we deal Eller, we will need two.

  2. Anonymous says:

    From this list: Miller is the most realistic. I wish they got Kakko though, if they could rehabilitate him, they could either trade or keep him. Also, Georgiev.

  3. novafyre says:

    Joseph had a following in Tampa and fans questioned the trade, but with Paul’s performance through the end of the season and the playoffs, Tampa fans now feel Tampa got the better deal. Paul has done a great job of fitting into the Tampa system and bonding with his teammates and his production shows it. BriseBois has been getting a ton of praise for that trade.

    Don’t remember Mac getting any praise for his trades.

  4. steven says:

    Backy out for the year and if conditions dont improve has to retire. Eller a UFA after next season unles he is traded this summer. Yes McMichael is a C and should be playing on the 3rd line and they could move Eller to the 2nd line and make no moves. Or letMcMichael and Lapierre split duties at C position either on the 2nd or 3rd line. There is also Protasand pilon in Hershey along with possible resigning Gerisch and also Pinho. There is no one player like Backy now but let the young men fill the role and watch the cream rise! Personally I see no reason to go outside the organizaton for a C as we have several who can play if given the opportunity! Not only can you get to see what these players have but you also save cap space; which onthis tam is like water to a thirsty man.

    • Lance says:

      I like how you’re thinking, Steven. I’d be ok with playing Eller at 2C and McM at 3C. We might miss the playoffs but at least we’d be competitive and wouldn’t have to get into even deeper salary cap trouble.

      We definitely definitely definitely need to add some toughness somewhere especially with Wilson out for awhile. The current lineup is soft and will get run over.

      • DWGie26 says:

        I’d like to find some toughness in a 3RD. Knowing that guy may only play in half of the games as hoping TVR is 3RD and LuJo and Alexeyv battle/share the 3LD spot. And if they are not playing well slide TVR to left and play the physical 3RD. The other option would be to play Malensyn at 4LW in favor of AJF which will put some physical element in. That said, I think we will prioritize speed over physical.

        • Lance says:

          I believe Gudbranson is a UFA. Also Deslaures as a policeman/forward.

          I’m not sold on AJF yet. It’s a make or break year for him. Hopefully he establishes himself as a legit NHLer this season.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yea, they will probably prioritize speed over physical play but Malenstyn can provide both. He was great wheels. Hopefully, the Caps resign him and he’s able to compete for a spot.

          • DWGie26 says:

            I agree with you both on Malensyn. I prefered him over AJF for last two years. Injury stunted his progress, but he should get strong consideration. Will be a battle for 4LW.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is Backy out a year or six months?

  6. DWGie26 says:

    I have been debating this in my mind… go all in on Youngsters or sign from outside the organization. If you believe BMAC (I do), then change is coming.

    For youth, We have a lot of bodies at Center but no impact players for next season with Backy out for half to all of the season I think we need to sign someone. But you have to think even if Backstrom misses this year, he’ll be back next year so you have to be careful about term. We also want to deploy some youth.

    I don’t think CMM is ready for 2C so I think we should do what we can to move Eller to change up the middle and give CMM 3C. I’d then like to sign Trochet because he can play 2C for as long as Backstrom is out and can move to 1RW when he is back so even with term (4 years), he can be deployed in top 6 and we need at least one player there.

    Any move at center means we may not be able to resign Sheary or Hathaway next year as we’ll need cheaper contracts but I am ok with that because Leason, AJF, and Snively will all get a lot of minutes while Backstrom and Wilson are out and can fill what today are value contracts in Hath and Sheary in 2023-24. But we need top 6 now.

    • Marky says:

      You are right on Trocheck, he would be an ideal signing as he can play center and wing and he has a good faceoff percentage which the Caps have struggled at. I wonder like some others here if we can’t land the big center for whatever reason to go by committee for the year, but if Backy is really done and can’t come back for the end of the season or playoffs then you are probably stuck with no solution at the trade deadline. I still think they should make a big signing and hope they try for Forsberg or Gaudreau if they can’t get the C. Would be nice to add a player to the top 6 as Oshie should probably go to the 3rd line at this point in his career.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think they could cover with a utility type, like Mikeyev. The tricky part of trying to understand how long will and Backy will be out.

  8. Andy Green says:

    I’m just going to mention a few centers who were left off.

    Patrice Bergeron
    Claude Giroux
    Evgeni Malkin

    All are cruising to UFA status as of this moment. All are capable of playing second line center.

    • DWGie26 says:

      All our old and don’t bring that new NHL speed. The benefit would be you could probably do a one-year deal. But Bergeron is 37 and whole career with Bruins so he’d retire before going elsewhere. Girioux probably the same. He tried with FL but much more likely to play more seasons. hard no on Malkin. 🙂

  9. Joe M says:

    This is a well thought out list of candidates . It wouldn’t surprise me if Washington decided to take Ryan Strome , who has proven he can work well with a superstar right handed left wing while playing wing in the power play . He also knows the Rangers team strength and weaknesses well and for the Capitals to get a playoff spot … they need to beat the Rangers !

  10. Anonymous says:

    No Kadri?

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