Assessing The Trade For Rasmus Sandin And What He Will Bring To The Capitals’ Lineup

Photo: Alex Lupel/CP

On a particularly busy day for trades, the Washington Capitals acquired 22-year old defenseman Rasmus Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs in return for Boston’s 2023 first round pick (acquired in the Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov trade) and defenseman Erik Gustafsson. Sandin was the 29th selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft (three selections ahead of Alex Alexeyev).

Acquiring Sandin accomplishes a couple things. For one, it’s a clear sign that the Capitals and General Manager Brian MacLellan are intent on bringing in young, established NHL players in preparation for next season. The other benefit is Sandin has another year left on his deal at a cap hit of $1.4M, at the end of which he’ll be a restricted free agent.

Effectively, the Capitals are ensuring that not only will Sandin contribute this season and next, but the Capitals will have the opportunity to have exclusive negotiations with him to potentially lock him up on a long term deal.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at how Sandin has performed so far in his career. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, JFreshHockey and Evolving Hockey. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL analytics glossary.

Five-on-five on-ice performance

First up, let’s take a look at how Sandin has performed in possession and chance generation key indicating statistics:

This current season is the first time that Sandin has seen regular game action. He did play in a decent sample size of games last season, which gives us a decent glimpse into what Sandin is currently as a player, and what he could develop into.

Over the past two seasons, we can see some consistency in effectively all of the key indicators. Throughout his career so far, he has consistently posted rather solid possession numbers in Corsi shot attempts for percentage (CF%), Fenwick shot attempts for percentage (FF%), and shots for percentage (SF%). This is an indication that when Sandin is on the ice, his team controls the play.

On top of that, during this season, while Sandin was on the ice, the Maple Leafs controlled over 60% of goals scored. He’s hovering near that 60% mark in chance generation metrics like scoring chance for percentage (SCF%), high-danger chance for percentage (HDCF%), and high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%). This trend has been apparent for Sandin’s last 103 games, which is a large enough sample size for these numbers to be a baseline for his performance.

A caveat here is that the Maple Leafs are clearly a very good team. They’re sitting at second in the Atlantic Division (and fourth in the NHL). But, as we can see in the graphic below from JFresh, he’s not always playing with the best teammates that the Leafs have to offer:

As we can see here, Sandin is performing at a really high level in relation to other defensemen across the league’s overall value on the ice. He’s particularly strong offensively (we’ll get to that in a bit) and doesn’t reduce his offensive value with riverboat gambling defensively. A bit more stabilization of his defensive value will be a key for his development.

Here’s another graphic from JFresh that shows Sandin’s micro-stats:

What’s really interesting here is just how effective Sandin has been, offensively. One of the keys here is the disconnect between his Primary Assists value versus his Chance Assists: he’s creating solid scoring chances off of his passes but the actual points haven’t followed. The long and short of it is that Sandin is a really effective puck-moving defenseman, which is a trait that’s longed for in today’s NHL.

The area he can improve in is his Entry Chance Prevention. That’s something that can be developed, and will likely be impacted by whoever may be coaching the Capitals next season.

His defensive zone exits are on the stronger side of the league-wide valuation here as well, so he’s not just going to chip the puck up the boards, but move the puck up the ice with intent of keeping possession of the puck.

Offensive production

Since Sandin’s main asset is his offensive value, let’s take a look at how he has performed during five-on-five play at a rate of 60 minutes of play:

Over the past two seasons, with the largest sample size of games played, Sandin has hovered around .9 points per sixty minutes (P/60). He’s only been getting around 15 minutes of time on ice (TOI), which is about a third pairing defenseman’s minute share.

For comparison’s sake, Dmitry Orlov was skating about 18:33 of TOI during five-on-five play for the Capitals this season. We can likely expect Sandin to get a bigger role with the Capitals, especially for the remainder of this season.

For another comparison, Orlov’s career average P/60 is .95. If Sandin can match Orlov’s career average P/60 during five-on-five play, that’s a definite win for the Capitals. For all intents and purposes, it seems like Sandin is the Orlov replacement, so the comparison seems apt.

Special Teams

In the graphics mentioned in the previous section, you can see that Sandin’s performance on the power play isn’t quite stacking up to his five-on-five offensive production. Here’s his power play offensive production rates over 60 minutes of play:

Sandin was clearly not the so-called “finisher” on the Maple Leafs’ power play. He hadn’t scored a goal when the Leafs had the man-advantage in the past two seasons. On the other hand, we’ve seen a considerable uptick in power play P/60 even though he was on the second unit.

Sandin was seventh on the Leafs for total power play ice time and didn’t have the luxury of playing with the likes of the talent on the Leafs’ first power play unit of William Nylander, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, or Morgan Rielly.

It’s not clear (or likely) that Sandin would be on the Caps’ first power play unit after John Carlson returns from injury. But the Maple Leafs have a lot more large contracts in their forward group that really prevent them from having a lot of scoring depth, where the Capitals could possibly provide a bit more depth post-retool.

What should we expect from Sandin?

For this season and beyond, Sandin is most likely a top-four defenseman for the Capitals. For a Cup-worthy team, he’s likely your third or fourth best overall defensemen. The key here is that Sandin is only 22, and could develop with the right tutelage and deployment.

Due to his production and performance in key indicators for puck possession and chance generation, he was due for a promotion from his third pair duties in Toronto. With the myriad of acquisitions and current defensive depth on the Maple Leafs’ roster, that promotion wasn’t going to happen. The Capitals netted a really solid, young defenseman with plenty of upside in this trade, and it came a lot cheaper than a potential move with the Arizona Coyotes for Jakob Chychrun.

With a complete lack of offensively focused defensemen on the Capitals’ roster currently, it’s rather likely that Sandin will step into a role on the first unit of the power play. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs with a better scoring depth, with I don’t know, the best goal scorer in NHL history?

Overall, acquiring Sandin by leveraging Boston’s 2023 first round pick and pending unrestricted free agent Erik Gustafsson was a shrewd move. Gustafsson will want to capitalize on a new contract after a career resurgence in Washington, and the soon-to-be 31 year old is outside of the age window the Capitals are looking to have on the roster (outside of the core group) next season.

There will likely be other dominoes to fall for the Capitals in the trade market up to the deadline on March 3rd. The interesting thing to watch will be if MacLellan sells assets early to buy younger talent before the deadline with cost and contract certainty for next season, or if he’ll hold onto those assets to spend prior to the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

It’s clear the strategy for getting younger players on the roster around the aging core is the priority for this on-the-fly retool. It’s the right strategy to remain competitive for the remainder of the Ovechkin Era. The question is, how far do you kick the rebuild can down the road?

By Justin Trudel


About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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15 Responses to Assessing The Trade For Rasmus Sandin And What He Will Bring To The Capitals’ Lineup

  1. Anonymous says:

    The trade is growing in me. Age savings aside (which is a big part of it) I like the idea of getting faster and more offense from the blueline. I wonder if we need a little more grit in the blueline?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Sandin, a ’25 2nd, a ’24 3rd, and Craig Smith for Erik Gustafsson, Orlov, and Hathaway.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smith flipped for a mid-round pick. Not sure I like the total return.

    • GRin430 says:

      The return is about what we should have expected for rentals. A young defenseman on a relatively cheap contract and under team control for years to come, in exchange for an older, currently better D-man who has a much bigger cap hit and likely only 20 games left to play for the Caps, since he wants much longer term and more $$$$ than any NHL GM should give him.

      A 2nd and a 3rd in exchange for renting a defenseman who can score but not defend and a 4th line winger, is about the best the Caps could have expected.

      They also got Smith, who as you indicated might bring in another mid-round pick.

      While I would have preferred to hold onto Boston’s 1st, If Sandin turns out to be a solid 2LD, I can’t really whine too much about the deal.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I still hope they find takers for Eller, Sheary, Jensen or Van Riemsdyk (Aube-Kubel, Smith and Irwin likely finishing out season)
    This also seems like they possibly balked at Arizona’s asking price for Chyrchrun

    • Anonymous says:

      They gotta. It might not be a lot in return? 3rd/4th rounders?

    • Esteban says:

      Jensen is now out… forgot Dowd though. He is having a great season with us and is pretty good on the dot.

      • KimRB says:

        Dowd still has term left. The word I’m hearing is the Caps are only listening to offers for UFAs. Dowd has 2 more years after this, at a hit of $1.3M. He gives excellent value for the price, scoring, PK, face offs and defense, so why trade him?

  4. redLitYogi says:

    I like this trade and I’m hoping Sandin is one of those super-smart players who turns out to be way better than anticipated. It’s perfect opportunity for him to step into a prominent role and show what he has. But it also leave the door open for Alexeyev who I think is a keeper. And we still have the rights to Tobias Geisser.

  5. Gee says:

    Trades so far don’t favor us on the ice. So I’m in wait and see mode.
    What do you think the D lines will be tomorrow night?

    • GRin430 says:

      They aren’t intended to favor the Caps on the ice this year. This year is over. Done. Toast. Burn the tape except for December’s.

      Now it’s all about “wait ’til next year!”. Or the year after. Or the year after that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    He is the same draft as AA… He will step in and play today for a late 1st pick… compare that to Lucas J or AA>>>

    • GRin430 says:

      Also same draft as Fehervary. Who is actually playing at least as big a role as Sandin ever has. And Marty has more potential upside, given his size and skating ability. Not that I don’t think Sandin has upside…

      In any case, the Caps now have enough young LD in the near-term pipeline… Time to go get some kids for the rest of the roster.

  7. JumpJet says:

    It’s been very quiet about Carlson’s chances of returning. This is the beginning of the process to replace him?

  8. esteban says:

    I don’t get giving up a late 1 for Sandin. Toronto was not in a good bargaining position. Sandin was going to be a RFA and I doubt that the cap hell Toronto is going to be in that they could even pay that amount. We could have sent them EG and a 2 or even a 3+ later pick and gotten him.

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