Rasmus Sandin: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review

Next up in our series of reviews of the Washington Capitals‘ 2022-23 season performance, we’ll be taking a look at Rasmus Sandin‘s performance this season.

Back on February 28th, the Capitals shipped out Erik Gustafsson and Boston’s 2023 first round pick (acquired in the Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway trade) to acquire Rasmus Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The trade marked the first real glimpse into General Manager Brian MacLellan’s strategy for simultaneously infusing the roster with younger players while also retooling the roster around the aging group of veterans.

Sandin is entering the final year of his current contract that carries a $1.4M cap hit. Upon expiry of his current contract, he’ll be a restricted free agent. With all of those years of team control remaining, the Capitals can expect Sandin to play on the left side of their defensive corps long term.

The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference, and HockeyViz. Contract and transaction information is courtesy of CapFriendly. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.


We’ll go ahead and start our evaluation by looking at Sandin’s overall performance this season, including his time in Toronto, mainly for comparison’s sake:

First thing’s first, we should address what appears to be a clear regression in play after Sandin was moved to Washington. Part of what we can see here is clearly a result of playing on a better team in Toronto this past season. With more talent around him, he thrived in a relatively offensive role in Toronto.

After selling at the deadline (and dealing with an injury riddled end of the season), the Capitals were clearly less talented than the Maple Leafs are this season. Although Sandin’s underlying metrics decreased a bit in DC, his actual offensive output rate increased. In 19 games this season with Washington, he scored 3 goals and 12 assists for 15 points. In 52 games in Toronto, he scored 4 goals and 16 assists for 20 points.

With a larger role, it has become clear that Sandin can be really effective offensively focused defenseman.

Let’s start by looking specifically at Sandin’s possession metric performance, measured by Corsi For percentage (CF%), Fenwick For percentage (FF%), and shots for percentage (SF%):

Obviously, this is just another view of the data in the chart shared at the start of this section, but it’s important to consider the performance here. It’s easy to look at the drop off of possession metrics from his time in Toronto versus his time so far in DC and think that he under-performed after the trade.

I think that’s just one lens in dissecting this data. The other lens is that the Capitals as a whole struggled in the possession department, posting a 49.78 CF%, 49.53 FF%, and 50.05 SF%. There’s also going to be an adjustment for Sandin moving from a smaller role on the Leafs’ blue line to a top four role on the Capitals, as well as system changes from playing under different coaching staffs. On top of that, you have to build chemistry with new teammates.

Here’s Sandin’s goals for percentage (GF%) and expected goals for percentage (xGF%):

Again, this is more of a commentary of the difference in roster quality between Toronto and Washington this season. The bright side moving forward here is that Sandin’s GF% exceeds his xGF%, indicating a higher rate of finishing. That’s an area the Caps as a whole had struggled with this season.

Something to keep an eye on next season in this regard is expecting a higher xGF% from Sandin. With his rate of offensive zone starts, he should be on the ice for a higher volume of scoring chances.

Speaking of scoring chances, let’s take a look at his scoring chances for percentage (SCF%), high danger chances for percentage (HDCF%), and high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%):

Again, we see the skew between Toronto and Washington. I won’t go into that difference again, but the real bright side that has remained consistent is Sandin’s HDGF% tracking above his HDCF%. This also indicates a higher rate of finishing ability.


Here’s a look at Sandin’s top three pairings in terms of ice time this season. With so few games played, other pairings had much smaller sample sizes, so they aren’t being included since it’s hard to tell if they’re really statistically significant at this point in time.

Interestingly enough, Sandin performed the best in expected goals differential (which is goals for minus expected goals for) in a role where he received a lower percentage of sheltered offensive zone starts. Part of that is Sandin is being really effective offensively.

Sandin’s xG differential dropped into the negatives when paired with John Carlson, but they controlled the majority of scoring chances while on the ice together. And that xG differential can be a bit misleading because those two were on the ice together for 3 goals for and 3.31 expected goals for, so it’s not like they were finishing at an astonishing low rate. Carlson and Sandin controlled 55.21 CF%, 51.95 FF%, and 53.45 SF%.

The pairing with van Riemsdyk is interesting. Sandin had his highest xG differential when paired with TVR, but the lowest share of xGF% while also receiving nearly 70% of offensive zone starts. Their possession metrics were lagging a bit with 47.49 CF%, 44.16 FF%, and 44.22 SF%.


Let’s take a look at how Sandin’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) and expected Goals Above Replacement (xGAR) this season compares to other seasons during his career:

Although we saw a pretty substantial drop off in Sandin’s GAR rating from last year to his season, we still see a pretty constant trend over the past two seasons. His xGAR rate has trailed above his actual GAR rating, which means that the quality of play is there, but his actual results have trailed a bit behind that. That’s not too uncommon for young players, and Sandin hasn’t even entered his prime career years yet.

Here’s Sandin’s Rate-Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM), which is used to compare a player’s performance in key metrics at a rate of sixty minutes of play to the league average:

This is indicative of an offensively talented defenseman in today’s NHL. He’s effective in scoring and generating quality scoring chances and shot attempts, but struggles a bit defensively in terms of xGA/60. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he just needs to be utilized correctly.

I’m taking Sandin’s power play performance with a large grain of salt. It’s been clear that the Caps’ power play structure and strategy really fell below expectations this season, resulting in the team parting ways with long-time power play coach Blaine Forsythe.


Here’s Sandin’s individual isolated impact when he’s on the ice (via HockeyViz):

Overall, Sandin adds a lot of impact and value when on the ice. HockeyViz’s graphic is combining his time in Toronto and Washington, so we see a lot of the positives from his time in Toronto boosting some of these numbers.

Overall, if you can get moderate results defensively with strong offensive results, that’s a positive for Washington who so desperately needs to address their offensive woes from this season.


I’ve seen some folks regard Sandin as a Dmitry Orlov replacement, but I actually think he’s more of an Erik Gustafsson replacement. The Capitals definitely needed a secondary offensive defenseman to complement John Carlson, and by all appearances, Sandin fits that mold.

With Sandin’s smaller stature, he’s going to need to be deployed in the right situations with the right defensive partner. It’s difficult to project who his partner will be next season considering we can expect a large departure from the system Peter Laviolette installed versus whoever the next coach of the Capitals will install.

To me, the acquisition of Sandin was a strong first step in making this team younger and more skilled. This is clearly the archetype of player that MacLellan is targeting in improving the roster this off-season: younger skilled offensive players on affordable contracts with years of team control remaining.

By Justin Trudel


Alexander Alexeyev: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review
Trevor van Riemsdyk: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review
Nick Jensen: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review

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.
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Rasmus Sandin: 2022-23 Washington Capitals Season Review

  1. GRin430 says:

    Sorry, I’m not convinced yet on Sandin. The team underperforms their average in most of these fancy stats when he’s on the ice. Though I don’t think that’s a particularly important set of metrics.

    What does jibe with my eyeball assessment is the big, dark-red blob on the left side of the crease and slot area on the even-strength defense graphic. Sandin gets toasted regularly by guys either posted up in that area or driving to that area. Offensive defenseman or not, a big part of his job is preventing guys from scoring, particularly on his side of the ice close to the net. All the indicators show that he isn’t very good at that.

    That doesn’t mean he can’t get better in that area. Experience should help, as part of the problem is bad positioning — trailing guys who cut to the net, or not being on the correct side of them once they get there. Protein shakes and hours in the weight room should help once he is in position. But what he really needs is the commitment to engage more forcefully in front of his own net. He’ll never be an Orpik or a Chara or even a Gudas. But he needs to get better and stronger in defending his net, and as a smaller guy, that means he has to WANT to mix it up.. To me, that’s really what he needs to show next year to earn the big contract that a lot of folks thing he’s gonna get.

    • GRin430 says:

      That’s “think” in the last line, not “thing”. I need to bulk up on my typing skills and WANT to type better.

  2. Dave says:

    Two thoughts on Sandin: as has been discussed here and in the comments, it’s not yet clear if he’s a top four defenseman or will need to be relegated to more sheltered minutes on the third pair. Beyond the difference in talent/performance between the Leafs and the Caps, I think a significant part of the drop off between his performance in Toronto and with the Caps could be the move from a third pairing with the Leafs up to the second pairing with the Caps. We’ll probably have a better assessment of this maybe half-way through next season. It’ll be the difference between the Sandin trade being a “home run” (or at least a triple) or just a single.

    I also think some of his defensive struggles could be related to the system the Caps use(d), which involves some man-to-man coverages in the d-zone. This is totally subjective on my part, but it appeared to me that he often seemed to be uncertain of where he was supposed to go or who he was supposed to cover and would react late to situations, which could explain GRin430’s observations about him being late back to the crease, which he often was. He also seemed to be late in getting out on guys at the top of the circles, perhaps not realizing immediately that that was his guy. I seem to recall Jensen had some issues with the Caps d-system when he first came here. If this is the case, this problem could disappear with a new coach and a new system.

Leave a Reply