First Look: Capitals Trade Tiers Seven Weeks Before 2023 Deadline

With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline approaching seven weeks from Friday, the Washington Capitals are expected to be buyers as they currently occupy the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and are trying to salvage another Stanley Cup in the Alex Ovechkin-era. Some moves could be in store, so here is our annual trade tiers leading up to the deadline, which will be on Friday, March 3 at 3 PM ET.

Note: Any player who has played an NHL game or is currently on injured reserve is included.

Staying Put

    • Alex Ovechkin (four years left on contract, $9.5 million cap hit, no-movement clause) — The 37-year-old will not break Wayne Gretzky’s goal record in another jersey and is having a terrific season as he is tied for fourth in the NHL in goals (29) and 15th in points (48) in just 44 games.
    • Nicklas Backstrom (three years left, $9.2 million cap hit, no-movement clause) — Both the player and team want the 35-year-old to retire in Washington. Besides, it’s uncertain how much value trading Backstrom, who has played all of his 1,060 career NHL games with Washington and has an assist in two games since returning, would bring after he has missed 77 games over the past two seasons with a hip injury (and COVID-19). Though, Backstrom has said he is pain-free now.

Highly unlikely

    • Tom Wilson (two years left, $5.16667 million cap hit, seven-team no-trade clause) — The 29-year-old has played just two games since returning from a recovery after tearing his ACL in Game 1 of Washington’s first-round 2022 Stanley Cup Playoff series vs. the Florida Panthers, not getting on the scoresheet yet but he needs time after suffering an injury of that magnitude. Wilson, who recorded career-highs in goals (24), assists (28), points (52), and plus-minus (+13) in 78 games last season, comes with a very rare playing style with his physicality and production. He could become the franchise’s next captain once Ovechkin hangs up his skates.
    • T.J. Oshie (three years left, $5.75 million cap hit, 10-team no-trade clause) — Though the 36-year-old has missed 55 games over the past two seasons due to injury, he has been productive with 17 goals and 39 points in 71 regular-season games in addition to six goals and seven points in six postseason outings over that time. Oshie is viewed as a critical leader in the locker room and provides a big boost to the team as Washington is 16-9-3 (.625 points percentage) with him in the lineup this season and just 7-6-3 (.531) without him.
    • Dylan Strome (one year left, $3.5 million cap hit) — The 25-year-old, who can become a restricted free agent in July, has been very productive with the second-most assists (23) and third-most points (31) in 44 games. He is on a very team-friendly contract, currently Washington’s youngest top-12 (let alone top-six) forward, and can play both wing and center. This is the type of player that Washington needs to extend before the end of the season.
    • Sonny Milano (one year left, $750,000 cap hit) — Since getting recalled from the AHL’s Hershey Bears on November 2, the 26-year-old has been among Washington’s most productive players with seven goals and 19 points in 31 games. Milano can become an unrestricted free agent after the season but would most likely be a player that Washington would prefer to keep due to his production and very cheap salary. When Backstrom and Wilson returned, Milano earned a spot to stay in the lineup over left-wing Anthony Mantha.
    • Martin Fehervary (one year left, $791,667 cap hit) — The 23-year-old is another one of Washington’s few established young players on the roster and has had a nice season with three goals, seven points, a +5 rating, 47.29% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 45.09% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 48.02% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 32 games. Fehervary has averaged 19:43 per game this season (third among Washington defenseman excluding John Carlson), including 1:31 on the penalty kill (fourth).
    • Darcy Kuemper (five years left, $5.25 million cap hit, 15-team no-trade clause) — The 32-year-old has been a rock in goal as he is tied for 17th in the NHL in wins (12), tied for ninth in save percentage (.919), 13th in goals-against average (2.52), and first in shutouts (four) during his first season in Washington. He has provided stability and consistency in net, something that the team lacked for the previous three seasons.
    • Alexander Alexeyev (one year left, $863,333 cap hit) — In 10 NHL games, the 23-year-old has tallied two assists, a -1 rating, 37.61% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 38.16% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 32.38% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage while averaging just 13:26 per game with no significant time on special teams. He is still young and was Washington’s first-round pick in 2018. The team likely has big plans for him next season with Carlson the only defenseman on the roster with a contract for 2023-24.
    • Nic Dowd (two years left, $1.3 million cap hit) — Despite a slow start offensively, the 32-year-old has 10 goals and 19 points in 42 games with seven of those goals and 13 of those points coming in the last 19. Dowd has the second-highest faceoff-winning percentage (50.8%) on the team and averages the most penalty-killing ice-time among forwards (2:17). He is viewed as a crucial part of Washington’s shut down line and signed an extension just 14 months ago.

Knock My Socks Off

    • Dmitry Orlov (one year left, $5.1 million cap hit, five-team no-trade clause) — The 31-year-old, who has recorded two goals, 12 points, a +10 rating, 52.53% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.74% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 51.01% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 28 games, has been one of Washington’s most reliable defenseman over head coach Peter Laviolette’s tenure. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the season but is a player that Washington would most likely want to retain. Besides, the team is still “all-in” on winning so a suitor would have to overpay for the team to part with a player like Orlov.
    • Conor Sheary (one year left, $1.5 million cap hit) — The 30-year-old has been Washington’s most consistent players all year with 11 goals and 28 points. Sheary, who can become an unrestricted free agent over the summer, has also played an average of 1:46 on the penalty kill and has played all over the lineup this season.
    • Trevor Van Riemsdyk (one year left, $950,000 cap hit) — The 31-year-old, who can also become an unrestricted free agent after this season, has upped his game at both ends of the rink with four goals, 10 points, a +9 rating, 50.75% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.85% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 52.34% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 44 games. He has averaged 17:59 per game (fourth), including 2:37 (one second behind first) on the penalty kill. Van Riemsdyk provides excellent value and is a player any team needs to be successful.
    • Nick Jensen (one year left, $2.5 million cap hit) — The 32-year-old, who could also be facing unrestricted free agency after 2022-23, has had a nice campaign with a goal, 19 points, +8 rating, 49.86% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 49.76% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 49.93% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 44 games. Jensen, who has played just 451 NHL games, is one of Washington’s most dependable blueliners for a very reasonable price. The team could look to extend him by the time the summer comes, especially since he comes with low mileage.
    • Evgeny Kuznetsov (three years left, $7.8 million cap hit, 10-team no-trade clause) — The 30-year-old has had a little bit of an underwhelming season with just six goals and 36 points in 43 games but still leads Washington in assists. Kuznetsov is still productive and perhaps, the amount of injuries that the team has dealt with up front has played a role in his production declining from last season.
    • Nicolas Aube-Kubel (one year left, $1 million cap hit) — The 26-year-old has found himself on the outside of Washington’s deep forward group after Wilson and Backstrom returned. He was playing very strong with six points (including goals in back-to-back games last weekend) and a team-leading 57.06% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage. Aube-Kubel, who won the Stanley Cup with Kuemper and the Colorado Avalanche last season, will most likely be the first forward in line to suit up when there is an injury.
    • Charlie Lindgren (three years left, $1.1 million cap hit) — The 29-year-old has stepped up to let Washington breathe when Kuemper needs a night off as he is 11-5-2 with a .912 save percentage (22nd) and 2.60 goals-against average (16th). Lindgren ranks eighth with a .928 save percentage and fourth with a 2.00 goals-against average in 11 games among goaltenders to play at least two games since December 5.

For A Reasonable Upgrade

    • Erik Gustafsson (one year left, $800,000 cap hit) — The 30-year-old has broken out offensively since the holidays as he leads all NHL defenseman with seven goals and ranks second with 15 points (third with 1.25 points-per-game) since December 17. Gustafsson has collected 25 points, a +9 rating, 54.2% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 54.05% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 54.85% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 43 games. With how little he makes, Gustafsson should be a keeper for Washington but considering he can become an unrestricted free agent at the year’s end, perhaps the team could listen if someone makes a very tempting offer.
    • Garnet Hathaway (one year left, $1.5 million cap hit) — The 31-year-old has not had the same amount of success offensively as he enjoyed last season but plays a critical role defensively on the fourth-line and co-averages the second-most shorthanded ice-time among forwards excluding right-wing Connor Brown (1:51) with center Lars Eller. Hathaway, who can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, has earned six goals, 13 points, and a 52.79% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 44 games. Given how well he executes his job, can provide offense, and plays a big role off the ice, Washington may decide not to let Hathaway walk in July.
    • Marcus Johansson (one year left, $1.5 million cap hit) — The 32-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance season in his first full one back with the team he started with. Johansson, who can become an unrestricted free agent in July, already has his highest goal total (11) since 2018-19 (13) in 14 fewer games and has recorded 21 points in 44 games. Given the relationship that the team and player have in addition to the one he has with Backstrom, it is hard to imagine Johansson in another sweater in the spring but if Washington wanted to bring in a big addition, could Johansson be on the table to head the other way?
    • Matt Irwin (one year left, $750,000 cap hit) — The 35-year-old, who has collected two assists, a +2 rating, 47.38% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 48.55% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 48.8% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 43 games, has seen a bigger role this season due to the injuries suffered by Orlov and now Carlson. Laviolette has a strong relationship with Irwin, who plays solidly for the role that he plays and salary he makes, dating back to their days with the Nashville Predators from 2016-20, which included a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Washington could look for some help defensively with Carlson likely out for months but not at the expense of Irwin most likely unless a deal really makes sense.
    • Beck Malenstyn (two years left, $762,500 cap hit) — The 24-year-old played well in a stint with Washington in late October, posting a goal and an assist in five games. He also has a goal in one AHL game but has missed a lot of time since undergoing surgery on his finger on November 4. Malenstyn will be a restricted free agent by the time his deal expires.
    • Connor McMichael (two years left, $863,333 cap hit) — The 21-year-old posted a team-worst 22.49% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in six games and was scratched most of the time before being sent to the AHL, where he has seven goals and 11 points in 21 games. Laviolette has played him an average of 10:20 per game (22nd of 28 forwards to play for Washington) over McMichael’s two full NHL seasons despite a promising rookie campaign so seeing McMichael dealt would not be a complete surprise, especially if Washington pulls out a big move. 
    • Aliaksei Protas (two years left, $789,167 cap hit) — The 22-year-old had a strong showing in Washington with three goals and 10 points in 41 games before getting re-assigned to the AHL last weekend. Protas is likely at the front of the line to get recalled should an injury occur and could become an NHL regular as soon as next season.
    • Anthony Mantha (two years left, $5.7 million cap hit) — The 28-year-old’s season got off to a strong start but Mantha has been underwhelming lately as he has just nine goals and 23 points in 42 games. Since Wilson returned, Mantha has been a healthy scratch. There have been some rumors that he could be apart of a deal to bring in Vancouver Canucks right-wing Brock Boeser. Mantha has talent but there are points where he has been really quiet.

Could Be On The Block

    • Joe Snively (two years left, $800,000 cap hit) — The 27-year-old earned one assist and a 49.84% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in six NHL games before getting re-assigned to the AHL last weekend. He can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of his contract.
    • Lucas Johansen (two years left, $762,500 cap hit) — The 25-year-old has averaged 12:40 per game in two NHL outings, where he tallied a 41.46% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 33.75% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 35.29% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage. Johansen, Washington’s first-round pick in 2016 who can become a restricted free agent in 2024, also has earned a goal, an assist, and a -4 rating in 13 AHL games.

Likely On The Way Out

    • Lars Eller (one year left, $3.5 million cap hit) — The 33-year-old has earned seven goals, 15 points, a 50.33% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a team-best (excluding Backstrom) 53.97% faceoff-winning percentage in 42 games. The Stanley Cup Playoff hero from 2018 could be on his way out with him set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer and Aube-Kubel and Protas among those whose play warrants more ice time. Clearing the price tag Eller, who may require a sweetener to get out of his contract, comes with would also mean Washington could take on more money in other deals.

IR Contracts

    • Connor Brown (one year left, $3.6 million cap hit)/LW Carl Hagelin (one year left, $2.75 million cap hit) — These two forwards are unlikely to play (again) this season after Brown underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL on November 1 while Hagelin, who started skating last month but still has a long road to playing again, had a hip procedure on October 11. Brown, 28, has not been ruled out to return this season but it appears unlikely. Washington could trade these contracts for future considerations to clear roster place but will barely get anything (if at all) in return. Both players can become unrestricted free agents after this season and it appears unlikely that Washington will renew either of their contracts.

Not Applicable

    • John Carlson (four years left, $8 million cap hit, 10-team no-trade clause) — The 33-year-old recorded eight goals, 21 points, a -1 rating, 53.07% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 53.3% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 51.53% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 30 games before suffering an ear/head injury in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on December 23. Carlson, who provides minimal (if any) trade value at the moment, is out indefinitely and will likely be out for months. The hope is that he will return just prior to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even if he was healthy, it would be a long shot to see him traded.

The trade deadline is quickly approaching. The Capitals strategy for the deadline will be largely based on the team’s play over the next four weeks or so. If the team continues winning ways, the team will likely be buyers for a player or two. If things go south, we could see quite a few moves to clear out expiring contracts.

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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25 Responses to First Look: Capitals Trade Tiers Seven Weeks Before 2023 Deadline

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes…. not many D available anywhere and the ones who are have a high price tag… I would go for Kuzmenko in Van… But Eller must go to make room… trade away picks and maybe SIZ in Regina.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I like the idea of adding a d-man. You’re right, the candidates could be slim, though. No way they trade Suzdalev at this stage of his development. Just 18 with a world of raw talent.

      • Harrison Brown says:

        I agree on adding a blueliner

        • Diane Doyle says:

          A D-man is the logical piece to add. But finding a guy who can step into the 2nd pairing who’s not costly to acquire and does not make a crazy high salary won’t be easy. There’s not much point in surrendering high assets to acquire a 3rd pairing defenseman.

    • Harrison Brown says:

      I was looking at the idea the other day. I like it

  2. Anonymous says:

    They are definitely going to have to unload salary cap for Carlson to return. It seems Eller is number one candidate

  3. Jonathan says:

    I don’t want Eller to go. I think he provides something different and necessary. I think he’s the perfect 3C, and with the right cast is very productive and has displayed great points in the playoffs. I’d rather see Kuzy or Strome or Backy go before him. Better trade value with those two I think anyway. Who in our system can duplicate Eller? No one. But the other centers can possibly be (eventually) replaced by our centers in Hershey, excepted for Kuzy, who is on another level, and I don’t think we have anyone else with his talent level, although they may come close. His inconsistency needs to be addressed, and if it’s the wrong system for him, we should accommodate him, I think if we keep him.

    • Anonymous says:

      I get your love for Eller. He will always be a legend in DC. The unfortunate part is age and his contract is up at the end of the season. He will be free to sign anywhere, and caps won’t be able to afford him (like Holtby, Beagle, etc.) They won’t get anything in return if he’s not dealt before the trade deadline.

    • Greg Schmidt says:

      I think that Eller’s role now is basically at the dot. If you can make a deal using him, fine, but next year he’s getting a pay cut.

    • dwgie26 says:

      I wouldn’t trade Eller either as that is a nice asset to have if wanting to make a long playoff run. I don’t mind if he sits until needed though.

  4. Have to think Mantha would be on that list given his (IMO) disappointing time in WSH so far and the recent healthy scratches. One thing the team has done a lot of in GMBM’s time at the helm is deal early draft picks to gain a piece for a potential run. Given that they will probably need to be replenishing the young talent pool by the final years of the decade, I would acquire any potential picks possible.
    The conundrum for the team is so many potential trade chips are UFAs at the end of the season. Teams may not be willing to give up a ton for a “rental”. Easy for us to speculate of course, will be interesting come the deadline

    Ideally would like them to extend Strome and Milano before the summer (both are young enough to be key building blocks IMO). Fehervary and Alexeyev on the backend. Really would like to see TvR extended if reasonable. But definitely will be an interesting summer and before that, trade deadline. Just need to stop dealing so many picks.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      I would guess Mantha is on the block. With the glut of forwards, they couldn’t get a roster forward for him. Getting picks and prospects is what non-contenders do. But if they can get a 2nd pairing defenseman, that might work.

      • GRin430 says:

        Given what they are paying him to sit in the press box for the past several games, Mantha had better be on the block.

  5. GRin430 says:

    It’s too early to predict whether the Caps will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. They had a bad six or seven weeks to start the season, followed by a good six or seven weeks, which has left them in a marginal playoff position.

    So which version of this Caps team is going to show up between now and 3/3/23? If it’s the one we saw at the start of the season, and again the past 2 games, they’ll be big-time sellers at the deadline, and anybody/everybody who will be a UFA at season’s end should be made available for the right return.

    If instead they figure out how to fit Backstrom and Wilson into the lineup and end up with 4 lines and 3 defense pairs playing like they were in December, then they should look to deal whoever is the odd man out among the forwards — currently Mantha, but who knows what will happen if/when he gets back into the lineup or possibly Eller. Both of those guys should bring some sort of decent return from a team looking for scoring ability (Mantha) or solid overall play (Eller).

    If Carlson heals enough to get back by the end of the year, and they are in the playoffs at the deadline, then they don’t really need another defenseman for this season, though if somebody made them a great offer in exchange for Mantha or Eller they should take it. Otherwise they should just get the most value they can in return for either or both of those guys.

    The defensive problems on this team are — for the most part –not caused by lack of physical talent or individual defensive skills, though Gustafsson is a pretty poor one-on-one defender. Instead they are caused by poor execution of the system by all five guys (or at least some number of them, including the forwards) on the ice at the time — often poor passing, or miscommunication or bad judgment resulting in odd-man rushes and poor coverage in the neutral and d-zones. Those issues are not necessarily — or even likely — going to be fixed by bringing a new guy into the lineup. They are going to be fixed by the team playing the way they are supposed to — the way they played in December.

    They have proven they can be one of the best teams in the league. They have also proven they can be one of the worst. What they do at the deadline will be determined by which version of the Caps shows up over the next month and a half.

    Whatever they do, they should NOT trade good prospects or high picks for a marginal old fart rental. They are too close to the beginning of a rebuild to keep doing that. They have veteran depth at the NHL level, and should deal from that, not mortgage the future.

  6. hockeydruid says:

    Wonder what a package of any combination of the following would bring: Mantha, Eller, mid-pick and /or Hershey player?

  7. horn73 says:

    I think Mantha is the one that will return the most via trade since he has term (not a ton) and has the money due that the Caps would need to unload. I don’t think much would be given for Eller (for 2 months of play). But more so, I don’t think trading solid centers is a good formula going into the playoffs, Eller is the type teams, including the Caps, typically trade for, if nor nothing else – depth.

  8. @Puckstop31_ says:

    What about Lapierre? He probably has some value, maybe even more than McMichael?

  9. dwgie26 says:

    We don’t have to trade out Cap to bring JC74 back. Unless we bring someone in. That gives us leverage in trading out a couple of bodies. Mantha makes sense given fit and value.

    It would be interesting to make a big move including some Hershey pieces as we are loaded there too. Most sense would be a 1LD or 2RD with term.

  10. Anonymous says:

    An upgrade over Hathaway should be a high priority, especially given Oshie and now Wilson’s injury histories. NAK has made Hathaway redundant, although the chemistry with Dowd cannot be ignored. Max Domi and Nick Bonino come to mind as reasonable costing upgrades

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