The Five Best And Worst Trades By Capitals GM MacLellan

Photo: LVRJ

With the 2022-23 NHL Trade Deadline now 27 days away, NoVa Caps looks at the five best and worst trades that Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan has made since taking over in May 2014.

Five Best

5. G Vitek Vanecek From Seattle Kraken (In Exchange For Winnipeg Jets’ 2023 Second-Round Pick)

After Seattle swiped the 27-year-old in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and signed a reigning Vezina Trophy finalist in Philipp Grubauer, they signed Chris Driedger as an unrestricted free agent and traded Vanecek back to Washington.

While all parties were happy at the time, this trade is starting to haunt the Seattle as Grubauer, Driedger, and Martin Jones (Driedger has yet to play this season) have combined for a league-worst .9055 five-on-five save percentage over their first one and a half seasons.

Vanecek went 20-12-6 with a .908 save percentage, a 2.67 goals-against average (tied for 17th in NHL), and four shutouts, including a stretch where he went 11-7-4 with a .935 save percentage (third), a 1.96 goals-against average (third), and three shutouts (tied for league lead) from December 16-March 6.

He entered the postseason as Washington’s No. 1 in net but coughed it up after posting an .863 save percentage and a 4.21 goals-against average in the first five periods of the team’s first-round series against the Florida Panthers before Ilya Samsonov took the job again and never looked back.

Less than a year later, Washington sent Vanecek and the 46th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to the New Jersey Devils for the 37th and 70th overall selections.

4. 2022, 2023 Second-Round Picks From Winnipeg (In Exchange For D Brenden Dillon)

After Seattle did not provide Washington with cap space relief in the expansion draft (Vanecek carried a $716,667 cap hit at the time), Washington needed to shed some salary themselves to re-sign captain Alex Ovechkin, who was one of four 50-goal scorers and 16 90-point getters last season. He ranks seventh with 32 goals and is tied for 22nd with 54 points in 52 games this season. Thus, they traded the 32-year-old Dillon with Martin Fehervary ready to slide into an everyday role.

Washington was able to not change their defensive performance by much (their goals-against has gone down from 2.88 in 2020-21– 17th – to 2.9 over the last two seasons – 10th), get younger after having the oldest team in the NHL, and shed cap space, all in one trade.

Fehervary, 23, has 12 goals, 27 points, a +14 rating, 48.46% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 46.94% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.1% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 120 games since the trade and was in the Calder Trophy conversation as being the NHL’s top rookie last season. He has averaged 19:35 per game (sixth on the team, including fourth among blueliners), including 1:38 on the penalty kill (fourth among defenseman), since becoming a full-time NHL blueliner.

Meanwhile, Dillon, 32, has four goals, 35 points, a +19 rating, 49.93% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 49.69% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 50.02% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 131 games with Winnipeg. He has averaged 19:12 per game (fourth among team defensemen), including 2:00 with a man down (fourth), with Winnipeg.

3. D Nick Jensen From Detroit Red Wings (In Exchange For 2020 Second-Round Pick, D Madison Bowey)

With the Capitals looking to add depth, they brought in one of the analytical darlings of the 2019 trade deadline in the now 32-year-old.

The trade did not look to be a good one for a while as Jensen struggled in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he tallied a -2 rating, a 43.32% Corsi-for percentage, and a 39.23% expected goals-for percentage in seven games after recording five assists and a +3 rating in 20 regular-season games while averaging of 15:32 of ice-time per game, including 1:27 on the penalty-kill. After Michal Kempny went down for the remainder of the season, Jensen got more time on the top-pair with Carlson.

Jensen had a rough start to his first full season in Washington and struggled for most of the 2019-20 season as he was a team-worst -7 rating and had only four assists through 54 games until he was scratched for the first time as a Capital. He improved after that, equalling his point output from the first 54 games of the season in just 14 games and led the Capitals with a +8 rating. Jensen had an admirable 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he posted a 54.64% Corsi-for percentage.

The 30-year-old built on his strong ending of the previous season in 2020-21 where he tallied two goals, 14 points, a +5 rating. He recorded a 50.24% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 53.58% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.5% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage while averaging 17:18 per game, including 2:38 on the penalty kill in 53 games. After sitting three games as a healthy scratch at the end of January, Jensen never gave up his spot in the lineup.

The 32-year-old built on a breakout season last year with a career-high five goal, 21 points, a team-leading +32 rating (tied for 18th in the NHL), 50.16% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.76% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 49.82% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 76 games last season.

Jensen has already set his personal best with 20 assists and has tied his career-high in points in just 53 games this season, where he has averaged 21 minutes per game (third), including 2:27 while shorthanded (tied with defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk for the team-lead). At five-on-five, he has earned a 50.5% Corsi-for percentage, 51.53% expected goals-for percentage, and 51.14% scoring chances-for percentage.

Bowey has been on three teams in the past three seasons and played just two games in each of the previous two. He set career-highs in goals (three), assists (14), and points (17) in 53 games with Detroit in his first full season with the organization but also earned a -16 rating and was not tendered a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. Bowey has not appeared in the NHL since November 14, 2021.

2. Kempny From Chicago Blackhawks (In Exchange For Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2018 Third-Round Pick)

After playing a key role alongside Carlson on the team’s top defensive pair during the Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2018, Kempny got a big raise. Reirden helped Kempny establish himself as a top-four NHL defenseman the past couple of years and it paid dividends for Kempny and Washington.

Kempny’s +24 rating that season was the best on Washington and the 17th best in the NHL. In addition, he set career-highs in games played (71), goals (six), assists (19), and points (25).

While averaging 19:11 (the sixth-highest average ice-time on the Capitals), including 1:39 shorthanded, Kempny recorded 135 blocked shots (the third-highest on the team) and 84 hits (the ninth-highest) in a solid campaign for the 28-year old.

Kempny’s season-ending hamstring injury required surgery and left a massive hole on the Capitals as their defense struggled without him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, allowing an average of 3.00 goals-per-game.

The 31-year-old did not return to his pre-injury form but posted three goals, 18 points, and team-leading +19 rating among in 58 games during the 2019-20 season. Though, he struggled towards the end of the year as he finished with a 49.93% Corsi-for percentage, a 49.54% expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.95% scoring chances-for percentage in 58 games. He was a healthy scratch for one regular-season game and three first-round Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Kempny suffered a torn Achilles tendon during offseason training last fall and underwent surgery on October 6. He did not play last season.

After a rough training camp last season, the 32-year-old got an opportunity when Dennis Cholowski, Martin Fehervary, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk were all out due to COVID-19 protocol and did not look out of place with a goal, two points, -3 rating, 45.48% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 47.05% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 45.7% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 15 games.

Kempny signed a one-year contract with Seattle last summer but did not play a regular-seaon game with them and had his deal terminated before going back to Czechia this past fall.

1. RW T.J. Oshie From St. Louis Blues (In Exchange For RW Troy Brouwer, G Pheonix Copley, 2016 Third-Round Pick)

With Washington in the market for a top-line right-wing after not being able to find the right combination with Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom despite trying nine different wingers there the previous season, the Capitals brought in Oshie.

In his first season with the team, Oshie set a career-high with 26 goals (which he has hit twice since arriving in Washington). The following year, he set career-bests in goals (33), points-per-game (.82), and plus-minus (+28). By that time, Brouwer had left the Blues as an unrestricted free agent, Copley had returned to the Capitals in the deal that brought defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the District, and the Capitals got the third-round pick they parted with back.

Oshie re-signed with the Capitals just as his deal was about to expire. Despite some tough luck in the first season of that contract where his production dipped to 18 goals and 47 points, Oshie made up for it with eight goals and 21 points in 24 postseason outings to help the team to their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.

Since then, Oshie has stayed productive as he has averaged .36, .38, .42, .25, and .29 goals-per-game and .78, .71, .81, .57, .49 points-per-game over the last five seasons.

Over the last two seasons, he has missed 56 games due to five different injuries and COVID-19 but has not slowed down much when healthy with 21 goals and 42 points in 78 games. Oshie also came up huge for Washington in the first round last season, leading the team with six goals and seven points.

Brouwer earned 18 goals and 39 points in 82 regular-season games and eight goals and 13 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games with St. Louis before signing with the Calgary Flames as an unrestricted free agent.

Copley posted an .829 save percentage and a 4.32 goals-against average in two games with St. Louis (only one of which was a start).

Five Worst

5. LW Jakub Vrana, RW Richard Panik, 2021 First-Round Pick, 2022 Second-Round Pick To Detroit For LW Anthony Mantha

With Vrana and Panik both coming off recent healthy scratches and in need of a change of scenery, Washington pulled off a blockbuster move that saw them acquire the 28-year-old, who appeared to be tired of being in Detroit’s rebuild.

While it is understandable they had to give up a second to offload Panik’s $2.75 cap hit for the next two seasons after this one, MacLellan overpaid by parting with a first-round pick in addition to Vrana. Though, there was less certainty to the value of a first-round pick in 2021 due to shortened seasons and less ability to travel and scout.

Mantha, 28, recorded four goals and eight points in 14 games after the trade and became the first Capital ever to score four goals in his first four games with the team. While his production dipped after that with just three assists in 10 games at the end of the season, that was not because of his play or a lack of opportunities.

The Capitals were willing to part with Vrana, 27, because he was in the midst of a down season as he recorded 11 goals and 25 points in 39 games and did not seem to fit into Laviolette’s system. MacLellan saw a frustrated player in Vrana and wanted to satisfy his wish of more responsibility and more cost certainty with Mantha under contract for three more seasons after this season and Vrana set to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He also had issues under both Reirden and Barry Trotz during their tenures in Washington and was scratched for two games prior to the trade. In 11 games after the trade, Vrana recorded eight goals and 11 points.

Panik recorded a goal and four points in 12 games following the trade to Detroit after recording three goals and nine points in 36 games with the Capitals. He was also scratched for five of his last seven games with the team before getting dealt to the New York Islanders three months later. He is currently playing the final year of his contract in the National League.

Mantha, 27, missed four months last season due to shoulder surgery in November and finished with nine goals and 23 points in 37 games (a 20-goal, 51-point pace over an 82-game slate), not bad but not the type of production the Capitals gave up Vrana and a first-round pick for in 2021.

Vrana did not play until March 8 last season after undergoing a shoulder procedure in September 2021. He finished the campaign with 13 goals and 19 points in 26 games (a 41-goal, 60-point pace over 82).

This season, Mantha started off well with three goals in his first five games but has only six and 21 points in his last 44. He has been a regular healthy scratch since Washington got right-wing Tom Wilson and center Nicklas Backstrom back from offseason surgeries.

Vrana has played only two NHL games (and had a two-point night in New Jersey in October) before getting placed in the player assistance program. He has been in the AHL since returning in December and started off with four goals and six points in 13 games but has gotten scratched in Grand Rapids and was passed on when Detroit placed him on waivers. Though, he has two goals and three points in his last two.

The first-round pick that the Capitals traded was used by the Dallas Stars on center Wyatt Johnston, who has 13 goals and 22 points in 51 games during his rookie NHL season.

The blockbuster trade has been disappointing for both sides as there have been rumors that Mantha could be on the block ahead of this year’s trade deadline and Vrana’s contract could be bought out at the end of the season. Washington arguably overpaid to get out of Panik’s contract, which carries a cap hit of under $3 million. Had one of them been discarded, the deal would have looked better for Washington.

4. C Brad Malone, LW Zach Sanford, 2017 First-Round Pick To St. Louis For D Kevin Shattenkirk

MacLellan brought in All-Star defenseman Shattenkirk to help the Capitals try to break the postseason curse. Shattenkirk never seemed to gel in his short time with Washington. He was not strong defensively, earning a +4 in the regular season and a -4 in the postseason. Offensively, he scored two goals and 14 points in 19 games in the regular season and added a goal and six points in 13 postseason games.

While Shattenkirk didn’t prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Capitals, it’s important to consider the trade in context. Shattenkirk was the most sought-after player approaching the trade deadline and Capitals fans were terrified that Pittsburgh might land him. MacLellan deftly blocked the Pittsburgh from grabbing Shattenkirk, but the season had a familiar ending for the snake-bit Capitals.

Shattenkirk signed a four-year contract with the New York Rangers after the season.

3. 2017 Third-Round Pick To Buffalo Sabres For D Mike Weber

Weber was brought in for a physical presence, but he finished with a -1 rating in 10 games. He only played two games in the playoffs, but he made a costly turnover in Game 4 against Pittsburgh in overtime that cost the Capitals the game and, perhaps, the series. The trade was part of the reason why the Caps didn’t have any picks in the first three rounds in 2017.

Despite the common sense to add defensive depth during the stretch run, MacLellan gave up too much for an extra pairing defenseman, let alone one that turned out poorly.

2. C Chandler Stephenson To Vegas Golden Knights For 2021 Fifth-Round Pick

With Washington facing a salary cap crunch as left-wing Carl Hagelin was set to return from injury, they were faced with either trading the now 27-year-old or Travis Boyd and went with Stephenson. The trade looked very bad just less than 24 hours later as Stephenson, who signed a four-year contract that carries a bargain $2.75 million cap hit after that season, scored in his first game with Vegas and has only gotten worse since.

Stephenson has only seen his totals in each statistical category rise each season as his goal totals have gone from 11 (in 65 games) in 2019-20, to 14 (in 51), and 21 (in 79) last season. With 11 in 51 this season, he is on pace for 18. His point totals have also climbed from 26 to 35 and 64. Stephenson is on pace to hit 71 points with 44 so far.

He has also seen his faceoff-winning percentage go up from 50.4% to 52.03% to a career-high 59.71% this season. Stephenson leads all Vegas forwards in time-on-ice per game (19:49), ranks third on power-play time per game (2:35), and is just three seconds behind the team-lead among forwards in shorthanded ice time per game behind center William Karlsson (1:32).

Stephenson struggled under then-Washington head coach Todd Reirden as he was continuously healthy scratched and underutilized. With the way he was used in Washington, it is understandable that they got little return so while MacLellan pulled the trigger on the deal, he did not get much help bringing out the best in Stephenson like Vegas has done.

1. D Jonas Siegenthaler To New Jersey For Arizona Coyotes’ 2021 Third-Round Pick

After Siegenthaler requested a trade to get more playing time, Washington dealt him to make more room under the NHL salary cap with the trade deadline a day away.

With Chara anchoring the third-pair in 2020-21 and Fehervary on the way, it made sense to part with Siegenthaler and Washington got back a decent draft pick in return.

After finishing 2020-21 with a 51.21% Corsi-for percentage and a 55.51% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five in eight games with New Jersey, Siegenthaler thrived last season with a goal, career-high 14 points, 51.51% Corsi-for percentage, 52.74% expected goals-for percentage, and 54.92% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five in 70 games. He signed a five-year contract extension that carries a very team-friendly $3.4 million cap hit last July that starts next season.

While averaging 20:57 per game (third-most on New Jersey), including 2:49 on the penalty kill (second), this season, Siegenthaler has already tied his career-highs in goals (two) and points in 49 games. His +26 rating entered Monday tied for fifth in the NHL while he has also tallied a 54.32% Corsi-for percentage, 55.17% expected goals-for percentage, and 56.07% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five.

Siegenthaler requested a trade but Washington dealt a top-pairing shutdown defenseman to a division rival (who is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference).

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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8 Responses to The Five Best And Worst Trades By Capitals GM MacLellan

  1. Anonymous says:

    A 5th round pick for Stevo is plain larceny.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Siegenthaler trade….sigh.

  3. GRin430 says:

    Most of the bad trades were for rentals (please just stop doing that, GMBM… NHL dumpster diving rarely works to the recipient’s advantage…) or to mitigate salary cap issues. I understand having to deal with cap issues, but those too are self-inflicted. And then there was the #1 bad trade, which was totally self-inflicted, though I’m not sure which deserves the most blame — the coach or the GM It’s very poor asset management in either case..

  4. JamesBond1962 says:

    BMGM is a dumpster fire. His coaching selection of Rierden killed the team for 2 years. Not to mention letting good young talent go for virtually nothing.

  5. hockeydruid says:

    Im sorry but under the Best trades the #5 one was not good at all silly. Traded for VV and only kept him one year and then let him walk for nothing so they basically traded a 2nd round pick for nothing. The Caps Gm never seems satisfied with what he has in the ice and then makes trades that dont help or lets players walk and receives nothing for them.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Next time please start with The Worst… and Finish with The Best… Im now depressed with finishing reading about Stephenson and Siggy not here… Imagine we kept them? Ugggg

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