Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan will be a very busy man in the coming weeks, developing his final strategy for the rapidly approaching trade deadline set for 3PM on March 6. Will the Capitals be buyers, sellers, or somewhere in between? That’s still very much up in the air at this point in time.
The Capitals showed signs of life in November and December, and fought their way back into the playoff picture after an underwhelming start to their 2022-23 campaign. Unfortunately, things began to stagnate and even take a dip in the last nine games, once again muddying the waters with regards to the outlook for the season.
Maclellan will undoubtedly use the next few weeks to assess the direction of this years team, and then begin finalizing his plans for the approaching deadline. The Capitals have 11 unrestricted free agents this summer, which also factors into the thinking as was approach the deadline.
Center Lars Eller is just one of those 11 unrestricted free agents on the Capitals current roster set to hit the open market this summer. For Eller, and the other 10 UFA’s, if there is no plan to bring him back, a trade is the last chance to garner any kind of return for the player.
The Case For Trading Lars Eller
The Capitals would appear to be well stocked at the center position, with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dylan Strome, Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd holding down the starting four center positions. The also have several prospects waiting in the wings (Aliaksei Protas, Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre). It’s currently a luxury to have Eller on the team, should an injury at center occur, but it’s likely a luxury the Capitals may need to do with out.
Eller, 33, is in the final year of his current deal with the Capitals. If the team is not planning on re-signing him this off-season, and at his age, that’s a very reasonable assumption, they will lose him for nothing unless he is dealt prior to the deadline.
Eller’s $3,500,000 salary cap hit could be useful savings if the Capitals are looking to acquire a player, say an extra defenseman, while John Carlson is out for an unknown period of time.
The Case Against Trading Lars Eller
Center Nicklas Backstrom is very much an unknown at this point. Does he remain playing at a relatively high-level, similar form from years gone by? Or does his decline continue? If the Capitals need to replace Backstrom at any point, Eller is an ideal fill-in.
If the Capitals turn things around and indeed make an honest push for the playoffs, Eller’s experience would be a valuable asset to have, even if it’s from the bench. Eller, who has seven goals and eight assists in 44 games played so far this season, can still provide some level of scoring as well.
Lars Eller will always be a legend in DC, as members of the 2018 team will live on forever. But has his time on the ice for the Capitals logically come to an end?
What is your take? Should the Capitals trade Lars Eller before the trade deadline?