Photo: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
As the Capitals and General Manager Brian MacLellan are poised to enter the 2023 off-season with a quick retooling strategy in mind, modifications to the team’s roster will likely continue well into the summer. This will include consideration of adding players from around the league to their 2023-24 roster.
This post will be the first in a series that will cover potential players for the Capitals to acquire. With the Capitals owning 11 total picks over the first three rounds for the next three drafts, there’s plenty of draft capital to utilize as the Caps look to get both younger and better entering the 2023-24 season and beyond. The first player we’ll be analyzing is Vancouver Canucks right wing Brock Boeser.
The statistics and salary cap information used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, CapFriendly, Evolving Hockey, and HockeyViz. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.
Boeser’s skill set matches what MacLellan mentioned as a potential target area: a top six forward with skill. On top of that, the Capitals were absolutely brutal in finishing scoring chances from the right side of the ice this season, and Boeser can add a bit more depth scoring in the middle six forward group.
Boeser is a 26-year-old right winger and a former first round pick (23rd overall) by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. So far this season, he has 12 goals, 29 assists, and 41 points in 56 games played. In his career, he has 133 goals, 164 assists, and 297 points in 380 games played.
You might be asking why the Canucks would move on from a 26-year-old, former four-time 20-goal scorer. Boeser has been garnering buzz in trade rumors, largely due to the three-year extension he signed last summer that carries a $6.65M cap hit.
Five-on-five on-ice performance
First up, let’s take a look at Boeser’s performance during five-on-five play in terms of his possession metrics:
Boeser’s possession metrics don’t look great, but the Canucks as a whole have struggled in possession metrics. Their Corsi for percentage (CF%) ranks 24th in the NHL, their Fenwick for percentage (FF%) ranks 25th, their shots for percentage (SF%) ranks 24th, their goals for percentage (GF%) ranks 24th, and their expected goals for percentage (xGF%) ranks 24th.
So, overall, Boeser isn’t performing quite out of the norm for the Canucks as a whole, but you can ask a former first round pick making over $6M a year to elevate the team a bit more. Here’s Boeser’s five-on-five scoring chance generation marks:
Again, not the greatest performance this season in these key statistics. For context, the Canucks ranked 24th in scoring chances for (SCF%), 24th in high-danger chances for (HDCF%), and 23rd in high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%).
The reason I’m bringing up the Canucks’ team performance in these statistics is that it’s rather indicative that the Canucks are performing poorly as a whole and it might be negatively impacting Boeser’s performance. That’s not to say that Boeser couldn’t be playing better, since it’s always possible to be a high-level player on a bad team (look at Elias Pettersson on the Canucks as an example).
Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM)
RAPM is an efficient way to measure a player’s performance in relation to the league, and in relation to replacement level. Here’s Boeser’s RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey:
What stands out the most is Boeser’s xGA/60. It’s certainly not good this season. On the other hand, his GF/60 is solid, and his contributions on the power play are quite strong. For context, here’s the Canucks’ team RAPM card:
The long and short of it is the Canucks just aren’t a great team, and Boeser isn’t benefiting at all from the talent around him.
To show what Boeser’s peak level performance can look like, let’s turn back the clock to the 2020-21 season:
This is a player that can drive offense during five-on-five play at a very high level. This is the talent that made Boeser a first round draft pick, and ultimately what netted him his three-year extension mentioned a bit earlier in the post. He has a high ceiling, and it’s possible that a change of scenery could do him wonders.
With a player like Boeser who has a relatively large cap hit, the cap situation and roster construction has to make sense. After the Capitals extended Trevor van Riemsdyk to a three-year, $3M cap hit extension on Saturday, the Capitals have $7,369,166 in cap space if the cap ceiling only goes up a modest $1M. With that, the Capitals only have 11 forwards, 4 defensemen, and 2 goalies signed to contracts next season. Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev are due new contracts as restricted free agents.
Fehervary could either be signed to a long-term extension or a short term bridge contract. A bridge contract would offer the Caps a bit more near-term cap flexibility, but it could mean Fehervary developing further and resulting in a much higher cap hit if the Caps don’t sign him to a seven or eight year contract this off-season. A longer term deal will have a higher cap hit.
Realistically, the only way this acquisition works is if Anthony Mantha is sent to Vancouver in a package to acquire Boeser. Trade values are all over the planet right now, so I won’t make any conjectures about what else would be involved in the trade. The win for the Canucks in this case is getting off of Boeser’s contract, and getting an NHL quality forward back whose contract expires after next season. The Canucks could hope for a Mantha resurgence to flip at the trade deadline next season for assets, or they get a serviceable player for their top nine forward group for next season.
Does this make sense for the Caps?
Boeser has all the talent in the world, but the Caps and their pro scouts will have to really like what they’ve seen from Boeser’s game to make a move for a forward with that sizeable of a cap hit and term remaining on the deal. If the Caps acquire him and he returns to being a 20-plus goal scorer for the remainder of his contract, that’s clearly a win for the Caps.
On the other hand, if he continues sub-par play (for a player of his caliber), being hampered with a sizeable cap hit on a team with quite a few of those big contracts will be an albatross in trying to manage cap flexibility for the remainder of the Ovechkin Era. He’s definitely an option, but the move is full of risk. I’m not sure how risk averse MacLellan is after the Caps missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 season, and the first time in MacLellan’s tenure as GM.
By Justin Trudel
I am sure the Canucks would move Tyler Meyers and BB… but for the Caps to get them, Mantha has to go the other way.
100%, there’s no way that the Caps can take on Boeser’s contract without Mantha going back.
I’d definitely skip out on Tyler Myers, though.
I thought he said top 6? Just because a player has a large cap hit don’t make him a top 6. 12 goals????? We have plenty of those.we don’t have a 30 goal scorer
He just has 12 goals this season, but here’s how his goal totals have looked over the course of his career (minus the 16-17 season where he only played 9 games–but scored 4 goals in that period):
17-18: 29 goals in 62 GP (38.35 pace over 82 games)
18-19: 26 goals in 69 GP (30.89 pace over 82 games)
19-20: 16 goals in 57 GP (23.01 pace over 82 games)
20-21: 23 goals in 56 GP (33.67 pace over 82 games)
21-22: 23 goals in 71 GP (26.56 pace over 82 games)
22-23: 12 goals in 57 GP (17.26 pace over 82 games)
That’s an average pace of 28.29 goals per 82 games. His goal totals are down, but he’s still on the younger side and a change of scenery could do him wonders.
What do you think Tarasenko will command in FA? Maybe package Mantha and a 3rd round pick for a team like Arizona to take him off our hands to open some cap space.
I like your idea better in acquiring Senko. You could get lower years, term and risk with him I think.
I’d be really surprised if Tarasenko takes a short term deal this off-season. He’s 31 and this is his last chance to cash in on a long term contract.
You may be right. He certainly will have suitors.
Honestly as much as I would like to see Mantha go who is going to take him? You expect a productive player to be given in return for a player who is overpaid and underproduces? Not in this NHL. Unless another GM looses his mind we are stuck with Mantha through next season and then you have Wilson to resign. Also the Caps would have to retain salary and toss in your player and picks. Way to much to give up for 1 player. Much better to hold unto their 11 picks in the first 3 rounds in the next 3 drafts and hope that those players will be ready when Ovie retires after the 25/26 season. Constantly retooling a very mediocre team just to get a player a scoring record is going to catch up with this team and then what could have been a 3-5 year rebuild will last what 5-7years or longer.
Mantha is 8th on team in points. 7th in goals at 10. many will look at him as a change of scenery player with potential at <30. Caps haven’t really deployed him recently on PP or top 6. He is actually a piece that would be appealing to Vancouver who needs to get a new look as well.
On rebuilds… just look. They take 10+ years. So who cares about dragging in out 3 more. But i would also say, we can retool enough to be in the conversation the next three years. We need to make some moves but we can get there.
I guess my question is: as the owner is more interested in having Ovie acquire a personal record, the scoring title, than in what should be the team goal getting a Cup, why bother at all, just put Ovie out there and order everyone to force feed him the puck until he gets the record. This team became irrelevant the day that owner decided, and the gm followed along, that a personal record meant more than a team goal in a team sport. IF a team goal was what they were really after then Trotz would have been resigned as HC, regardless of the money, and they might have had a great chance for a 2nd Cup but instead they went with the doofus Reardon and now this antique HC who is stuck back in the 80’s and 90’s. IF you consider being in the conversation about or making the playoffs only to get knocked out in the first round an achievement then you should be very happy but the goal is not personal records or making the playoffs only to lose in the first round but instead being a contender for The Cup!! I would rather have a rebuild that takes several years rather than retooling just to have the same results of loosing in the first round and honestly being irrelevant. Retooling to stay mediocre means nothing unless you yourself believe that mediocrity is a good thing; and obviously the owner and gm do!
One note you say that Mantha is 8th on the team in points and I say BIG BIG woop!!! What forwards is he ahead of…..Backy who has played 24 games coming off an injury, Wilson who has played 18 coming off an injury, NAK who has played 36 after being released by Toronto, Smith who had played 7 games here and Brown who has played 4 before getting injured. Sounds like a really great offensive weapon! If you were a GM on another team and looking for a forward would you want Mantha with his salary and low production? He is still here because no one wanted him. You can try and make him sound good but stats dont lie. He has 10G and 26 points in 59 games having played on all 4 lines while Milano has 10 and 29 in 54 games, or Jensen a D had 2 and 24 in 64 games(Yes a D) and Dowd in 53 has 11 and 22 while J.Carlson who is out injured has 8 and 21 in 30 games and Oshie who has spent several stints on the injured list has 17 and 30 in 49 games. So unless you are going to retain most of his salary in a trade he is here next season doing nothing again.
It’s risky as you say because he could very well turn out like a Mantha situation and in doubling down you get 3 years of a high salary you can’t move instead of Mantha’s one year. We shouldn’t bail out the Canucks because they are terrible at roster construction and overpaying players. No one has helped us with one year of Mantha, why should we bail them out of 3 years of Boeser?
It’s definitely a high-risk, high-reward situation with Boeser. I think the risk outweighs the reward right now, but if the Canucks were willing to retain a bit of salary, perhaps it lowers the risk a bit.
There’s a good chance that Boeser isn’t a player that’s targeted by the Caps, but his goal scoring past helps rectify the issue the Caps have had with finishing (especially on the right side of the ice).
Yep. Bmac and the pro scouts are usually excellent at targeting the right guy. Caps need to get this right with the limited years left until the rebuild…
Just beginning my research on “needs” but completely agree, this is one. We will need more scoring next season, preferable from the middle six.
I made a list of guys to target and I would be interested in what you would think. https://www.capfriendly.com/armchair-gm/team/4041623
Appear’s to be quite a few players. Do you have top candidates?
Duclair, Schmaltz, Boeser, Dube
We need a legit top 6 forward. not middle 6. We have middle 6 players in Washington and in Hershey.
How about Daniel Sprong. He is on pace for 20 goals.
He’s certainly worth a look to see if a reunion is in the cards. With Seattle, they’ve been in playoff contention, so they might be less willing to deal a younger player with scoring upside. Every player (and team) has their price, though.
Shipped has sailed unfortunately
Not with Lavi here…;)
Boeser is slow and always hurt so I can see the fit. NOT!!!
Hey, I’ve an idea, since we don’t play Protas as a center, why don’t we trade for a big defensive/offensive forward like……Eller.