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With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline just a little more than three weeks away, NoVa Caps’ Jon Sorensen, Justin Trudel, and Harrison Brown provide their thoughts as to what the perfect trade deadline would look like for the Washington Capitals.
This team doesn’t need much. With their forward group overflowing all the way to the AHL, as center Aliaksei Protas was re-assigned to the Hershey Bears after center Nicklas Backstrom and right-wing Tom Wilson were activated from long-term injured reserve, Washington should look to dump two of its forwards for more salary cap flexibility.
The two most likely candidates are left-wing Anthony Mantha (who carries a $5.7 million cap hit through next season) and center Lars Eller ($3.5 million through this season). Washington may not fetch a huge return for either player but each player has been a healthy scratch in the past month and both have had underwhelming (at the very least) performances this season.
With John Carlson out, Washington could use another right-handed defenseman but that could be tricky if the team expects the 33-year-old to return during the regular season. The Los Angeles Kings reportedly are looking for a center and willing to give up one of Matt Roy (six goals, 16 points, -3 rating, 50.31% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 49.8% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, 50.12% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 53 games), 27, or Sean Walker (two goals, nine points, -7 rating, 51.08% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.28% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, 49.84% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 49), 28. Either could be solid options but Washington would likely have to add a pick(s) with Eller to make Los Angeles bite.
Other than that, the team has strong goaltending, defense, and offense overall. If there are opportunities to improve at a reasonable cost, they should certainly entertain it but there is no reason to give up a first- or second-round pick, especially with the 2023 NHL Draft class expected to be deep.
I agree that the Capitals don’t need to add much. However, what they do need to achieve at the trade line should be significant. Yes, the blueline would benefit from the addition of a solid right shot defenseman, preferably with some scoring ability. Even if Carlson returns for the postseason, it’s questionable as to what level of play he will be able to achieve by the postseason. However, with just one defenseman signed after this season, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan should use the deadline to begin restructuring the team’s defensive unit for the remainder of “The Alex Ovechkin Years.”
The trade deadline is the last chance for MacLellan and the Capitals to obtain any value for players that will likely depart this summer in free agency. I think we see Eller dealt for whatever Macllelan can get (third round pick?). Eller will be a legend in DC for a long time, but the business side wins here.
I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Capitals move on from Mantha as well. He’s the same player he was in Detroit, the player that frustrated Detroit fans and GM Steve Yzerman.
With the signings of left-wing Sonny Milano and center Dylan Strome, the Capitals solidified their forward group and sent a strong message to Hershey. As a result, the Capitals now have some significant trade value in their prospect pool (something that wasn’t the case in recent years). In fact, there are a number of middle-tier prospects, in addition to top-tier prospects Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, that should be strongly considered for a stalwart blueliner and/or future draft picks. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not we’ve seen enough of Alexander Alexeyev, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he is part of a trade.
MacLellan has stated publicly that there will be no rebuild with Ovechkin in town, but what is he supposed to say? I would prefer the team take a hard look at their chances for this postseason, and restructure for a better run over the next three seasons.
The Capitals might not have a ton of holes in their roster currently, but the group that could use a bit more depth and experience to the defensive corps. To pave the way for acquiring a defenseman, ideally, the Capitals sell Eller at the deadline to open up a bit of cap room. You could look at a team like Los Angeles who could use some center depth on their roster. Moving out Eller will create the necessary cap space to be able to activate Carlson off of if and when he returns later this season.
There are two routes that the Capitals could take with a defensive acquisition: a pure rental player, or a player with some term. Adding a player with term would effectively ensure Washington is entering the offseason with four defensemen they can count on being in the lineup come this upcoming fall (Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary are restricted free agents). Jake McCabe of the Chicago Blackhawks is a defenseman that could make sense here, since he has two years remaining after this season with a $4 million cap hit. More salary would have to be moved out to be able to acquire McCabe.
A true rental would probably be more in the vein of Jake Walman from Detroit, who has a cap hit of $1.05 million. A player like Walman with a more affordable cap hit might be a bit more attractive to the Capitals and likely won’t be as expensive to acquire like McCabe would be. Washington would have a bit more depth defensively after a trade, and likely wouldn’t need to see Matt Irwin skate important minutes in important games down the stretch.
If it took parting with one to make a deal, would you rather keep McMichael or Lapierre?
Good question. Connor McMichael has demonstrated the greater potential to this point. I would love to keep him in “the pool”.
Love the analysis here, I definitely agree that Eller should go. Mantha should also go, just for cap reasons; NAK and Protas have both shown they can be effective in his place.
I do have some other questions/comments, but I may be getting ahead of myself here:
I think Backstrom will retire in the next two years, opening up a place for Lapierre or McMichael. Then the question is, can one of those two skate on the wing, or do they get moved? Or does Dowd get moved? Love Dowd, but he seems like he will be in a fight next year if moves are not made at the Center position.
I also think it’s likely Oshie retires in the next year or two, which would open a spot for Protas.
Regardless, I don’t think it would be wise to trade the farm, especially with the injuries we have been seeing across the team. Maybe with the Mantha trade, we load up on picks rather than win-now talent.
Good question Dan. Both McMichael and Lapierre can play wing, with the edge to McMichael. I think if they stay with Washington, that will be the plan for those two for the next two years.
If there is an early retirement, then all plans will change, of course.
To add to that, McMichael has a motor like Justin Williams. He’s been largely snakebitten in the NHL as far as scoring goes, but guys who drive to the net tend to balance out their scoring over a large enough sample size. Plus, Lapierre has his injury history, which appears behind him but will always remain a major question.
Neither; we need to build-up MORE young talent, not less.
But if they couldn’t make the team, and there is no room for the next two seasons, you want them to just stay in Hershey?
Any news on Hagelin or what you think the Capitals will do with Hagelin?
Last update: https://novacapsfans.com/2022/12/28/hagelin-skates-before-capitals-practice-for-first-time-since-eye-hip-surgeries-return-still-in-distant-future/
Mantha and Mitchell Gibson for Jordan Spence and Tyler Madden
Interesting idea. Gibson may be unsignable at this point. He may want to test free agency as well. Deal him while you can holds some merit.
By the time they get back to playing, they will be outside looking in with the other teams with games still in hand. Sell sell sell. Sign frank and let the young ones play.
IF in a few weeks they are in a playoff spot I would look to move one of Eller or Mantha. Then I would acquire Olli Maatta instead of Walman. He has 85 games of playoff experience and is only 28. I could even see the Bmac sign him to an extension (just like he did after he got Nic Jensen from Detroit). Walman has had some shoulder problems and hasn’t played much really so I think he might be a one off this year. At least Maatta has a good track record. IF they are outside the picture in a few weeks, of course sell.
I don’t think the Caps are a third pair left defenseman away from the Cup.
They for sure are not I agree. I just think that would be the most pressing need to enhance or add to the playoff depth on defense.
Yes, defense is a need, but third pair left defensemen are a dime a dozen (the Caps have two).
No single rental player is going to turn this team into a top Cup contender. Playing at its best, the current roster can stay with anybody in the league… for a period or three. But over a 7-game series? Hard to believe they can win a series against a real contender, given the way they’ve played 3 out of 4 months so far this year.
In my view the next 10 or so pre-deadline games are critical for this franchise’s future.
If they get hot and win most or all, climb into 3rd in the Metro, then they start to believe they can win a Cup with this roster and they mostly stand pat — probably deal Eller and/or Mantha (but not both) and/or a prospect or 2 for the best RD help they can get. I think they would be chasing fools gold, but you folks might have noticed I’m a bit of a pessimist…
If they lose most/all of those games, then it should be a fire sale. Every expiring UFA contract plus Mantha should be offered for picks and prospects. Take what you can get for any/all, rather than lose those UFAs for nothing. Throw in a few mid-level prospects who don’t project all that well at the next level (Pilon, etc.) to sweeten the return if possible. But don’t expect to get a huge return back, since what they have to offer isn’t superstars with term remaining. The biggest return would likely be a past/future 2nd pick or two for Orlov. They may be able to get something similar for Mantha if another GM thinks they can cure him of being Mantha. The rest will bring mid-round picks/prospects back, at best. But that’s okay since if they clearly are not going to win a Cup, they aren’t giving up anything either… Most of the guys they would be moving will have at most 20 games left with the Caps before free agency and if they want to come back next year, they could, whether the Caps trade them or not.
As I’ve posted in the past, the most likely path is purgatory. They win 5-6 games before the deadline, are hanging on to a wildcard or are down only a couple of points for the last wildcard, and they decide to trade Eller/Mantha PLUS McMichael or Lapierre or Suzdalev for a 33-yr-old RD who used to be pretty good but not a superstar, though now can barely keep up with below-average NHL forwards — i.e., an Eller who plays RD. That would be typical for this franchise, based on history.
Yup! The reality is the Caps have around a .00001 chance of winning the Stanley Cup this year. They’ll have to go on a serious hot streak to make the playoffs.
If the goal is to sell tickets and advertisements in the short term then keeping Ovie happy and adding name players at the deadline makes sense even though it won’t win many more games. If the goal is to win another Cup they will have to start adding young stars to the stable and trade, say, half of the vets away while they still have value.
It doesn’t look like Leonsis will go for much of a “re-tool.”
It was mentioned above that the team doesn’t have many holes. The team is barely hanging on to MAKE the playoffs. Seems like there are many holes just not ones the team wants to make the hard decisions to fill.
I partly agree with the guys above… and with you. I’m not sure they really have significant holes, since it would be hard to argue that many — if any — of the players currently on the roster don’t belong in the NHL and/or couldn’t make most other teams in the league (NAK and Irwin are the most marginal players, and they sit in the press box most games. Milano was a reclamation project, but that seems to be more of a screw-up by the rest of the league).
The Caps between ~2002-2008 had many holes — guys who really didn’t belong in the NHL but were plugged into the lineup as they were rebuilding. The only good thing about that era was that my lower-bowl-end-zone season tickets were REALLY cheap!
This team isn’t like those teams. They just don’t play well as a group, at least haven’t most of the year. That’s likely a coaching problem, or maybe the pieces just don’t fit well together, or they are too old and beat up to go full throttle every night… which are both coaching and GM problems. But in any case, I also agree with you in that I don’t think plugging in a new player or 2 is going to turn this team into champions…
So they’re kind of like a not-quite-new suit… not a lot of holes but not good enough to impress anybody at work…
It’s a tough situation to evaluate the best trades to make at the present time especially with the Carlson injury situation being what it is. If there’s any chance of him returning, they can’t take on anyone too expensive.
It would not be wise to give up a first or second round pick this year since the draft is considered to be a deep one. (To this day, I lament the fact that they didn’t have multiple picks in the 2003 draft which could have helped in the later rebuild.)
And there’s the matter of the impending UFA’s. Some may have to be traded to get assets, including Lars Eller. Caps should know the answers to some of their questions closer to the deadline.
Like Kempny trade in 2018 maybe a Klinberg trade jump starts the team. Regardless of who they trade they need speed..
Very nice content!! truly appreciable. Keep it up
Like the analysis. And totally agree that both Eller and Mantha are the best trade chips for the Caps. However having said that who would want them as they can pick up Eller for nothing after the season and both have high salaries. Sadly the Caps are on the outside looing at the playoffs even if the make the playoffs as they are a one a d done team and will not be a Cup contender for several years. What few assets they have in terms of picks and players in the AHL they will need next season and the season after that to replace the 11 UFA and RFA that are on this team now. hey are an old slow team with a head coach that is hopefully not coming back next year; so they need to have a roster that will attract a young head coach and staff. So due to several factors mentioned this team is not in a position to make trades that will only be patch work and not really make a difference in their position. Finally why trade young players and picks for older players just to keep the salary cap high and hope to make the first round of the playoffs and then lose again for what the 5th year in a row.
My opinion would be:
(Possibly 3rd or 4th Round Pick)
to Vancouver for
Vancouver gets a prospect and salary relief after this year for Eller and after next year for Mantha and maybe Mantha finds his way after being traded for the second time. We get a proven hard nosed player in Miller that can play LW, C, RW and replaces softy Mantha along with a Right Handed D-men as insurance on our Blue Line. I might even throw in a 3rd/4th to sweeten it a little more for Vancouver. We trim our forwards from 14 to 13 and then have Protas and others waiting in the minors in case of injuries. Gives us plenty of depth at Center still (Backy, Kuzy, Dowd, Strome, if need be Miller and Protas) but also improves our scoring ability from the Wings.