What’s Left To Do For Capitals This Offseason?

Photo: RSN

After a busy offseason, the Washington Capitals’ lineup will look quite different when they take the ice for opening night against the Boston Bruins on October 12. In addition to overhauling their goaltending tandem, they brought in two defensemen and three forwards.

However, there could be more work to do as the forward group is overflowing and there is some uncertainty to the third defensive pairing. NoVa Caps looks at what could be left in store for GM Brian MacLellan before he has to submit his opening night roster by October 10 at 5 PM ET.

First, we examine the Capitals’ projected lineup with the pieces they currently have in terms of skaters:

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Conor Sheary

Anthony Mantha — Dylan Strome — Connor Brown

Marcus Johansson — Connor McMichael — T.J. Oshie

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Extra: C Lars Eller

Injured: C Nicklas Backstrom (hip, expected to miss most of the season), RW Tom Wilson (torn ACL, expected to return in December)

The Capitals have too many forwards with others from the system (such as center Aliaksei Protas, right-wing Brett Leason, and left-wing Joe Snively) other options available. After signing Strome, the team is pretty deep down the middle even without Backstrom for most of the season.

With McMichael in need of a bigger role, it makes a lot of sense to trade Eller, who counts $3.5 million against the NHL salary cap and is coming off of a tough season where he had COVID-19 twice. In addition, he just turned 33 earlier this week.

Since the Capitals have a surplus of centers, could use some space under the salary cap, and Eller’s trade value has gone down lately, the return in a possible deal involving him could be cap space. If you think that’s not good enough, remember that the Vegas Golden Knights had to give up a 24-year-old defenseman in Dylan Coghlan to clear left-wing Max Pacioretty’s $7 million cap hit for this year even after Pacioretty scored 19 goals and 37 points in 39 games in 2021-22.

Even if the Capitals would have to take a marginal return for Eller, perhaps it would be acceptable considering the overflowing group of forwards available to them and the need to clear cap space in addition to getting younger.

Defensemen

Dmitry Orlov — John Carlson

Martin Fehervary — Nick Jensen

Erik Gustafsson — Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Extra: Matt Irwin (left-handed), Gabriel Carlsson (left-handed)

The Capitals’ defensive corps looks strong for the most part, though there is a possibility that none of Gustafsson, Irwin, or Carlsson are ready for an every day role. If the team is uncomfortable with any of them in that spot next to Van Riemsdyk, they could look to upgrade before or during training camp or in-season.

In addition to clearing some much needed roster space up front, moving Eller would allow the team to clear the cap space to make this move happen if it is necessary.

While the Capitals have made a lot of moves this offseason, more could be coming to make the pieces fit all together. Stay tuned.

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 What’s Left To Do For Capitals This Offseason?

  1. Marky says:

    If Backy, Wilson and Hags are on IR until January, no moves need to be made until then. I think they could trade Eller for a mid pick and then trade Hags out with a prospect (AJF, Leason type player) to AZ or Buff or Aniheim or other and that would work out. Sorry but best case is that Backy and Hags are out for the year, then no moves need to be made.

    • Anonymous says:

      No doubt. Trade Eller for a 2023 pick(s). The draft is supposed to be loaded.

      • Anonymous says:

        They have to acquire a veteran dman. Replacing the experience of Schultz and Kempny with two AHL’ers is a step back (so far).

    • steven says:

      You forgot trading or flat out cutting MoJo. That way another young forward is able to be kept. As for Backy, as much as I love watching him play, I have to wonder if this isnt an ego thing. I doubt that anyone making that salary does not have an insurance police to cover the salary, either the player or the team, in case of injury. So the only one that is really of any use or thought about coming back this season is Wilson. How did surgery go? What is the estimated recovery time? And recovery time for him to play the type of hockey that he plays? AsACL surgery generally takes at leats 9 months recovery time sometimes up to 12 months, Wilson might be back in Fob at the earliest or maybe not at all this year. Better that the injury fully heal and he recover than rush it. Keephim on LTIR all year and next year there will be a big turnover and not as much worry about cap space.

      • Harrison Brown says:

        They just signed him. They’re not going to trade (or cut) him until some time into the season, if at all.

  2. Lance says:

    I love Eller. It wouldn’t surprise me if BMac trades his salary away but I still see Eller as a solid contributor who I wouldn’t want to trade unless I had to. He’s a veteran center who does everything well. He plays defense, creates some offense, competes every night, good character. He can play on the top line and he can play on the 4th line. The PK or the PP. That’s a tough player to trade away. If you get a good draft pick or prospect back then maybe that makes sense but I’d hate to give away Lars for nothing. He’s still a good player.

    Of course, he’s not a #1 center but he is a solid #3 center who will lead our young players by example.

    • Anonymous says:

      He’s rapidly aging. Last season he was showing the signs. Better to deal him a year early than a year late.

    • steven says:

      Do you keep Eller and his declining skills or do you give the playing tome to an up and comming player like McMichael> Do you look at just this season or are you looking 2-4 seasons down the road on who will be of greater use then. TO me the answer to both is McMichael! Its time that Kuzy at his salary step up and start to lead by example. Time for him to produce all the time and put forth effort all the time not disappear for periods or games.

      • Lance says:

        I’m a McMichael believer! He might actually be a legit #2 center *this year* if he beefs up a bit. I’m gonna go ahead and call 20 goals and 30 assists for Mikey this year. He’s a force. He just needs to beef up and get regular ice time.

        So where does that leave Strome and Eller? Beats me. Good problem to have.

        The Caps’ staff will know if Eller’s game is declining. To me, he looked like a legit #3 center last year who does just about everything well. He had a lot of responsibility with Backstrom out much of the year. Good hockey player, Eller.

  3. Lance says:

    I continue to beat the drum for a Brooks Orpik-style top 4 defenseman. It’s been an excellent offseason for the Caps overall but the D is soft as Charmin.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. But, the only way it’s feasible is to trade off an overpriced contract on D and I highly doubt BMac will do that.

      • steven says:

        There is only one contract for a D after this season that will be on the bookd….Carlson and to me that is the one you trade. Depending on how the team is doing in Dec or early Jan maybe you trade Carlso and Kuzy and start your rebuild. Also Eller might be great trade material then if he is not already gome.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I still have no idea why GMBM signed Marcus Johansson this offseason. He had a very unimpressive stint after joining the team last season. Would much rather see Snively get a shot, or even McMichael at LW with Eller at 3C. What exactly is the attraction with MoJo?

    • steven says:

      He is stuck in the past and looking for a revival of what was but never will happen again and he has to prove and justify that he just didnt throw away 2 draft picks this past trading season.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The attraction with MOJO is that he his the only player outside of 92 that can carry a puck in the zone and skate on PP. This is Huge for this team that counts on the PP. Mojo also adds a lot of speed on a slow team. Snively has not played a playoff game and still needs to prove at his size and sustain in the NHL.

    • Anonymous says:

      MoJo is another one of the very-average over 30 vets who are blocking a roster spot for a potential young player. How will Snively *ever* get a chance to play in a meaningful game if these older has-beens keep blocking him? And you’re thinking of the MoJo from 5 years ago. What did he show you in terms of speed and puck-carrying ability in his stint last season? If MoJo still was an effective player, then why is he on his 6th team in the last 4 years?

      • steven says:

        Totally agree and I feel it is GMBM saving face to show that he didnt just waste 2 draft picks. Amother thing toconsider is he knows that the HC that he has does not like playing younger players so maybe the signing was to appease him. Maybe a package of Eller, MoJo and a 2nd tear guy from Hershey can be used soon to obtain 1 or 2 mid round picks next summer.

  6. novafyre says:

    Trade now if we need to get below the cap now. Wait if we don’t. Eller’s value could go up if another team gets an injury and has an unplanned need.

    Still don’t understand signing MoJo.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Trade Eller now. He is at his highest value right now, and will have to be dealt by trade deadline anyway.

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