Should The Capitals Trade Lars Eller Before The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline? The Cases For And Against

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?

Do you have a question?

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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25 Responses to Should The Capitals Trade Lars Eller Before The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline? The Cases For And Against

  1. emudd says:

    For starters, I’m going to hate to see Eller go, but he’s going now or after the season either way. I think if you can get something now and open up space for the trade deadline that would be great. The problem is that you need to open up more space than that just to bring Carlson back before the playoffs. Moving Mantha would be prefered for various reasons, not the least of which is his cap hit IS large enough for Carlsons return AND we’d get some deadline space as well. Before the start of next season, they probably both need to go. I’m just less sure that you can get any value for Mantha right now and it may look a lot more like a straight salary dump or he’s just a piece in a deadline deal that probably has a pick going the other way with him. So for me, Mantha is #1 to move and Eller you move if it makes sense. If it doesn’t, his depth and experience are worth having around.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes. I love Lars, but his time in DC has come to an end.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For me the question is, what will he bring in return?

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      A worthy question. I’m spitballing…3rd round pick? +/-? Need to think about that.

      • novafyre says:

        I believe that some players are untouchable to Ted. Ovi, obviously. Nicky, yes. But I also think Wilson and Carlson are in that same category. Right now, they are determining their own futures and, by doing do, the future of the Caps. The Caps will nibble around the edges, tweak and adjust, but the investment in these four can only be changed if the player wants a change. So any Caps movement is dependent on these players’ decisions, not the GM’s.

        • hockeydruid says:

          Quite frankly Ted needs to keep his nose out of hockey business. Who does he think he is Dan Snyder? Ted has already shown what he is all about when he would not resign Trotz over $$$. He could have had another Cup sitting in his office but instead went cheap and has paid the price but worse the players have paid the price. Im sure that if someone at AOL didnt perform they would be gone and if they did perform well they would get a raise. Mantha needs to go soon and then Eller and it doesnt matter how Backy performs as there are several adequate centers in Hershey who can finish the season in Wash.

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe a little more? 3rd and a 5th?

      • KimRB says:

        The market will set itself. Last year, no one would have thought Ben Chiarot would fetch a king’s ransom, but he did. Word is the market is still high for defensive defensemen. I think Tiger’s market value should be relatively high, seeing as how he had 18 points in 24 playoff games, spot duty as 2nd line center, and a Cup clinching goal in 2018. That’s an impressive resume. I also don’t believe he’sost much, since his PPG average is about the same as for his career.

        I’d stay with a high asking price. I’d want a 2nd round pick. If GMs don’t wanna pay, then he’s good depth, if he could be fit under the cap.

        Imagine what we could get for Orlov…..

      • hockeydruid says:

        A 3rd sounds about right or even a 4th with a low level player.

  4. dwgie26 says:

    I voted to not trade him, but that is just where we sit today. In the next 6 weeks our playoff positioning will be a lot more in focus as will Nicky’s health. For now, we don’t need to move him other than someone has to sit. If the right deal comes along, then we should move him but if an injury occurs, that means we have Mojo, McMichael, or Protas filling in. I think you could then have Protas as 4C and Dowd as 3C. Or McMichael as 3C and Dowd as 4C. I think if Nick’s health proves to be good, then I’d be comfortable moving on from Eller.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s hard letting go. I feel ya.

    • hockeydruid says:

      At this point in peoples careers and for what the Caps need not just for today but down the road, trading Eller rather than letting him go for nothing this summer makes more sense than just keeping him in case something happens. He should fetch a 3rd or 4th rounder and maybe if the Caps take the 4th or even a 5th (preferable good Irish Whiskey) then also can get a young player still in Juniors or even in low lever minors.

  5. Diane Doyle says:

    I know Eller is likely done in DC after this season. He had a nice long run for us — from 2016-17 through this season, 7 years total. But he is getting older (now 33 and turns 34 in May).

  6. Scottlew73 says:

    Got better idea!!! Trade GMBM & keep Eller @ least he does something useful for the team!! Besides how do you know Backstromn isn’t going to fall off bench & be gone rest of the year? This time of year your better with player you know fits into dressing room than introducing one that isn’t & risk screwing with team chemistry!!

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I get your sentiment. As far as GMBM, this has been one of his seasons for mid-season acquisition. Where would Caps be without Milano and Aube-Kubel? And the were relatively free of any significant cost.

      • KimRB says:

        Forget NAK and Milano…where would we be without Gus? Our best all around defenseman is a guy who was on the scrap heap not long ago.
        Give GMBM a hearty thump on the back for that one

  7. GRin430 says:

    Who gets traded and for what will depend on multiple factors that will play out over the next few weeks. What playoff position will the Caps be in, if they are in at all? Who is playing well or not so well on the team? Caps Injuries? Other contending teams’ injuries? Other contending teams’ needs and potential trading assets, aside from injury replacements?

    If the Caps’ slide continues, they should listen to offers for anybody who doesn’t have a NTC/NMC. 8, 19, 43,77,92, 9, 74 all have such clauses, meaning they are almost certainly not going anywhere no matter what. Trading RFAs also makes no sense unless the return is just too good to pass up, so Strome, Alexeyev and Fehervary aren’t going anywhere either unless some other team is desperate and offers a bonanza of young talent or top picks.

    That still leaves a lot of guys who could be moved to a contender for picks and/or young prospects, assuming the Caps are not contenders themselves. Those available for an outbound flight should include some of the Caps’ older prospects such as Snively, Pilon, Borgstrom, Fucale or Johansen. They passed through waivers, so they wouldn’t bring anything by themselves, but packaged with Eller/Mantha/Hathaway/Sheary,/Jensen/Gustaffson, etc. they might bring back a bit more than just that NHL player alone.

    If the Caps start playing well again, and are clearly in the Cup hunt, then moving Mantha and/or Eller still might make sense, depending on how they are playing, and how their competitors for a sweater are playing, at the deadline. The Caps have center depth in the organization, which they haven’t had in the past and which very few teams have — even some of the teams near the top of the standings right now. Even at age 33, a proven NHL center should bring back at least a mid-round pick if not more, depending on how desperate the other team is. If Eller is the odd man out in DC, and the Caps can get a good young prospect or a pick in the 2nd or 3rd round for him, they should make that deal in a heartbeat.

    Same with Mantha, or MJ, or whoever ends up in the press box more often than not over the next few weeks. Everybody in DC now is a proven NHL player. If they are sitting, chances are good that they have more value to another team than they do in DC. The Caps need to take advantage of that and get what they can to fill the organization with quality younger players.

    • dwgie26 says:

      That’s all about right. We actually have leverage now, because we don’t HAVE to make a move for Cap or to bring talent in. Hopefully we can do some of that without giving up ability to take a run again. We know injuries will have, but there are 6+ guys who can come up from Hershey and do fine.

      And not just GMBM, but every GM seems to be in a wait-and-see mode. Hard to move people with so much parity right now.

  8. DC Scappeli says:

    I hate to trade him too, but I think it’s best so they can free up some cap space and get something in return. I liked his versatility, the plug and play ability. However, there are a lot of factors against him—namely age and salary. Caps can use the $3.5 to help re-tool the team, get younger….

  9. Anonymous says:

    If they let all the UFAs leave without getting assets back it would be gross mismanagement or for this GM and HC business as usual.

  10. Mark Eiben says:

    It would have to be Eller or Mantha or maybe Jensen (2.5 mil) plus say NAK (1 million)…I don’t see any other way to get cap compliant unless they ‘Kucherov’ Carlson, which is possible too.

  11. Horn73 says:

    Lol, won’t be Jensen unless out of the playoff picture. Mantha gets us the money needed by himself.

    Gm and coach are likely in top 5 for coach and executive of the year. Certainty if they make the playoffs.

    • hockeydruid says:

      As much as I dont like him I agree that the GM is a good candidate especially with what has happened to this team in terms of injuries and him keeping them competitive. However as for the HC he deserves nothing but to be swept out o town on a broom.

  12. Scottlew73 says:

    It funny but didn’t I warn caps fans when trade for Mantha was made that he was a SLED! If he couldn’t be “impact” player on worst team in league how was he going to improve your team????? Yes Eller has been great soldier but @ best you’ll be lucky to see 5-7th round pick if any @ all for him!
    If this team was so worried about cap space why were so many Older RFA’s signed to really stupid contracts over last 3-4 years & how many are still with team?
    I’ve said for years that next year after cup win semi-rebuild should have started which would’ve meant 3-5 lean years & than contend again,now your in a corner with no options left.
    Yes it’s nice if Backy & Ovie finish careers together but if it sets another 8-10 years is it worth it??

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