Evaluating The Capitals Acquisitions Of Max Pacioretty and Joel Edmundson

Photo: News Observer

On the opening day of unrestricted free agency, the Washington Capitals made two moves in hopes to improve the team after missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade. The moves addressed both offensive and defensive needs.

At the end of the regular season, Capitals’ General Manager Brian MacLellan noted that he hoped to improve the top-six forward group by potentially adding one or two players to come in and help add more scoring. MacLellan also wanted to add a bit more youth to the roster. The two moves we’re covering today don’t really help the average age of the team very much, but one definitely addresses the top six forward need while the other addresses the lack of experience on the left side of the defense. In this post, we’ll be diving into the underlying metrics for Joel Edmundson and Max Pacioretty.

The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, and the NHL. Contract and salary cap 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.

Joel Edmundson

The Capitals’ first move of the day was acquiring left-handed defenseman Joel Edmundson from the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals acquired Edmundson (with 50% of his salary retained) for Minnesota’s 2024 3rd round pick (acquired in the Marcus Johansson trade) and the Capitals’ 2024 7th round pick. Edmundson’s cap hit for the last year of his contract is $1.75M.

In my opinion, it’s more than likely that the Capitals wanted to add a bit more physicality to the defensive corps, and Edmundson can bring that physicality. Edmundson is 6-foot-five-inches and weighs 221 pounds, so he can bring that net front presence that the Capitals were sorely missing last season.

On top of that, Edmundson was 68th in the NHL among defensemen in hits (112) and 24th in the NHL among defensemen in blocked shots. I’d expect Edmundson to slot into the third pairing alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Let’s take a look at his underlying possession metrics from last season with the Habs:

When we take these statistics at face value, they are definitely pretty woeful numbers for Edmundson. It’s paints the picture of a player that struggles at both ends of the ice and can’t keep the puck out of his own net.

Let’s rip the band-aid off and look at his five-on-five chance generation metric performance from last season:

This compounds the struggles that Edmundson faced in Montreal last season. There’s not a lot of good to talk about here, so instead, let’s look at the context around Edmundson’s performance last season.

Edmundson was playing a larger role on the blue line for the rebuilding Habs, and the Habs did not put forth a successful season last year. First, let’s take a look at Edmundson’s Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus (RAPM) chart, which compares the performance of key metrics posted by a player to the league average:

Again, these show what we’ve seen in the raw percentage based metric performance above. We know Edmundson wasn’t setting the world on fire in Montreal. But, I wanted to show you Edmundson’s RAPM chart before I showed you Montreal’s team RAPM chart, which may clear up a bit of concern around the acquisition:

Montreal was really bad last season. As a more defensive focused defenseman, Edmundson can only do so much when the rest of the roster around him struggles in pretty much every situation on ice. To add a bit of clarity around the player we know Edmundson can be, here’s his RAPM chart from the 2020-21 season, where he had some success:

If the Capitals can get a bit more of the 2020-21 season iteration of Edmundson, the Caps could do a lot worse for a third pairing defenseman. To note, the 2020-21 iteration of the Montreal Canadiens ended up making it to the Stanley Cup Final, and Edmundson played a large role in their Cinderella story. He averaged 20:03 in time on ice per game that season, so he was firmly in their top defensive pairings.

To show his on-ice impact, let’s take a look at his isolated impact chart from HockeyViz for last season:

Again, at face value, these don’t really look too good. On the other hand, though, Edmundson routinely played against opponents’ top talent and didn’t necessarily have the supporting talent around him to help him be successful.

I want to show what Edmundson can do when he’s in a position to succeed, so here’s his isolated impact chart from the 2020-21 season:

Edmundson definitely wasn’t setting the world on fire, offensively, but his deployments resulted in 5% fewer expected goals against per sixty minutes (xGA/60), which is pretty much what you want from a defensively focused defenseman. In a smaller role on the third pairing, Edmundson should be able to return to something a bit closer to his 2020-21 self.

Max Pacioretty

In their lone signing of the day in unrestricted free agency, the Capitals signed left wing Max Pacioretty to a one year deal that carries a $2M cap hit. The structure of the deal also includes $2M in performance bonuses based off of games played. If Pacioretty plays in 20 or more games this season, he’ll get the full $2M performance bonus. That bonus will apply to the Capitals’ salary cap in the 2024-25 season.

Pacioretty is coming off a complete tear of his Achilles (for the second time on the same ankle), and will likely not be available at the start of the season. Pacioretty only played in five games for the Carolina Hurricanes last season, but scored 3 goals in that time frame. In his career, Pacioretty has scored 326 goals and 319 assists for 645 points in 855 career games. Pacioretty will turn 35 in November this year.

Although Pacioretty is on the older side, and most fans might be confused about signing another veteran on the back nine of his career, his performance is still very good when he’s healthy.

Let’s take a look at his underlying possession metrics from the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons (since he only played in five games last season):

Like I mentioned, Pacioretty had only played in five games before re-tearing his Achilles tendon, but he was utterly dominant in those five contests. His possession metrics may be a bit inflated because of Carolina’s puck possession strategy around quantity over quality of shot attempts, but they also controlled all of the goals scored when Pacioretty was on the ice.

Even looking back to his 2021-22 season with the Vegas Golden Knights, Pacioretty posted really strong performances in possession metrics across the board. If Pacioretty can stay healthy, the Capitals just signed a bonafide goal scorer for their second line, and a left handed goal scorer for the power play.

Here’s Pacioretty’s scoring chance generation metrics for the past two seasons:

Again, these are really solid performances. Outside of allowing a bit more high danger chances (HDCF%) against in Vegas during the 2021-22 season, everything is on the right side of 50% here.

Here’s Pacioretty’s RAPM chart from last season:

This is a bit off since Pacioretty played so few minutes last season, but one of the key takeaways here is that his xGA/60 is trending a bit higher than his expected goals for per sixty (xGF/60). Pacioretty is actually rather effective defensively, and we can see that in a bit.

Here’s Pacioretty’s RAPM chart from the 2021-22 season:

We see the opposite relationship between xGF/60 and xGA/60 from last season, but we also see a player that was really effective in generating Corsi shot attempts for (CF/60), and ended up being close to one standard deviation above league average in xGF/60. Pacioretty, even in his mid-30s, is still an effective player.

Here’s Pacioretty’s isolated impact chart from last season:

The Hurricanes were considerably better when Pacioretty was on the ice in both offensive and defensive situations during even-strength, particularly offensively. The 12% increase in xGF/60 might be a bit inflated because of the low sample size of game action last season, but there’s still something there worth watching for next season with the Capitals.

Here’s his isolated impact chart from the 2021-22 season:

In all, we can look at his small sample size from last season and compare it to the 2021-22 season where he played 39 games and say that we’re seeing a trend of positive impacts at both ends of the ice during even-strength situations.

Bringing a 14% increase in xGF/60 in isolated impact is considerable, and if the Capitals can get that level of performance and production next season, the Caps should be in a good spot to contend for the playoffs.

Overall takeaways from the acquisitions

I’m cautiously optimistic about Joel Edmundson, considering it’s a rather low risk acquisition for a player that you hope can bounce back with a better team around him. With only a year left on his deal, and with 50% of his salary retained, you’re probably getting a more cost effective player for the third pairing (with a solid amount of NHL game experience) than you would in trying to sign a player in free agency. For the mere cost of a third round pick and a seventh round pick, it’s worth a gamble. Worst case scenario, he doesn’t perform well and Alexander Alexeyev gets playing time instead.

For Pacioretty, I’m pretty excited about the idea of him playing in a Capitals uniform. Yes, he’s 35. He’s a bit older than what I ideally would have liked the Capitals to go out and get for a long term top six option. On the other hand, though, Pacioretty performs really well when he’s healthy (and that’s a big caveat for him). Absolute worst case scenario for Pacioretty is he can’t stay healthy and the Caps put him on the long term injury list. The other possibility is if the Capitals are again outside the playoffs come the trade deadline and could recoup some assets in a Pacioretty trade to a contender if he’s performing well and is healthy.

By JustinTrudel

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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12 Responses to Evaluating The Capitals Acquisitions Of Max Pacioretty and Joel Edmundson

  1. Anonymous says:

    Trade MF and Mantha for Debrincat. Let AA play top 6.

  2. Prevent Defense says:

    Excellent stat evaluation, Justin!

    Among our regular commenters I anticipate overwhelmingly negative reaction towards Edmundson, Pacioretty, and the whole Caps experience during this Wild West Period of the 2023 offseason. As usual, the Caps GM and the whole staff are a bunch of idiots, and all their picks stank. What else is new.

    D Edmundson is the intriguing one to me. Watching a bunch of his games, he was an excellent on-ice leader, wearing the “A” and never complaining despite being on one of the very worst Montreal Canadiens teams in franchise history. But not too long ago, Caps acquired Erik Gustafsson from CHI, and the boo-birds came out in bunches. Over-the-hill, unmotivated, he “lost it,” on and on. Yet Gus finished +9 and was one of the best Caps D-men on the season.

    I will give Eddy a chance. A solid NHL defender. The dreary Coach Lavi tune is replaced by the upbeat strains of Newcoach Carbery and his Built Better Band. Let’s have a little optimism

    • GRin430 says:

      My only complaint with Edmundson is that even with Montreal eating half his salary, the cap hit is still too high for a 3rd pair defender, and the Caps don’t have the luxury of overpaying for a 3rd pair LD when they have cheaper options on the roster (AA). In addition, Edmundson supposedly has back problems, and the Caps don’t need another lame, old-fart player. But if he plays really well and ends up pushing Sandin out of the 2LD job, I’ll admit I was wrong.

      I have absolutely no problem with the Pacioretty signing. If he can actually play at his pre-injury level, he’s a bargain. However, with 2 complete Achilles tears in the same leg in a year, I doubt he will play for the Caps, or at least not until late in the year, so there will be no cap hit until then, just some bucks out of Ted’s pocket, which I don’t really care about. Of course until then he also doesn’t solve their lack of finishers, and even if/when he returns he definitely does not solve their problems with being too old and lame.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      I pretty much questioned the Edmundson deal. Doesn’t really move the needle and the Caps don’t really need another depth defenseman.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lets just be honest with ourselves, GMBM has dug us into a hole and today was about him desperately trying to trade players no one wants.

    When he traded Orlov and Hathaway, that was it the house of cards was coming down.

    Lets look at the current roster
    Ovechkin – No issues here
    Backstrom – Needs to be Old Yellar’d
    Kuznetsov – Disgruntled generational talent collecting a check
    Oshie – 2nd most injured player in the NHL
    Mantha – barely qualifies as a warm body, his mental coach can’t come on the ice with him
    Tom Wilson – a shell of his former self, does an ok job scoring. Will end up being our next anchor contract with negative value
    Dylan Strome – Possibly the most valuable player on the caps behind Ovie
    Sonny Milano – Possibly the 2nd most valuable player
    Kubel – Possibly the 3rd most valuable player
    John Carlson – big contract most over rated player in the NHL
    Edmundson – Injury prone and warm body (don’t sugar coat it)
    Sandin – now injured, has never been able to keep it together enough to stay in a NHL line up. Has potential though
    Alexeyev – in training
    McMicahel – Okay
    Jensen – nothing special
    Fehervary – Awesome but needs some work and upgrades
    Pacioretty – washed up, injury prone was literally taken out of desperation, oh and 1st most injured player in the NHL

    So is anyone excited about starting a new season with this team?

    How to Fix
    Buy out Backstrom ASAP
    Trade Oshie, Pacioretty, Mantha, Kuznetsov and John Carlson. NOW while we can still get something for them. You want Carlson okay you are paying and taking Mantha.
    Trade Kuemper, hand the net over to Lindgren because were are no where close to needing a Kuemper priced goalie with the current roster.

    It is sad GMBM has driven this team into the ground and the DC press online should be holding him accountable. Not making excuses

    GMBM was correct about one thing, this not a rebuild but rather something much worse, a demolition.

    Just a heads up Dowd is currently listed as a Capital on Cap friendly

    • novafyre says:

      I liked your comment, just wish you had attached a name to it so we could follow your posts.

      • hockeydruid says:

        This is the first post by anyone named Anonymous that makes sense and is well thought out. I do wonder if Tom will be the next anchor though as he has said he will not negotiate during the season and there is not enough money to give him the contract he would want nor the length. So I am thinking he hits the market next year. Maybe the Caps go all out this winter and trade Kuzy, Wilson, Kuemper and anyone else who has value and then Mantha, NAK, Edmundson walks after the season and either Backy retires or gets cut out right. Thus freeing up lots of cap space and slots for guys from Hershey to come up and play and show their stuff. Shame that the Gm was way to busy signing a player who was on LTIR and trading for something we don’t need rather than resigning Pilon!

      • Anonymous says:

        Trust me, you don’t want me here lol I don’t mix well with the rainbow bright kids and it would just cause trouble in the future due to that. I like this site, so I have to protect it, that just means i can look but not touch. My previous post I believe is warranted due to GMBM’s most recent jumping the shark.

        I have only posted like 3 other times here give or take.

        That post was a moment of passion and clarity in a snow globe of chaos.

        • novafyre says:

          OK, it’s your decision.

          • Anonymous says:

            One other thing I’m thinking about today is GMBM allowed to much to leak out regarding Kuznetsov, Mantha and even Sammy’s off ice issues. Keep that stuff in house because after publicly scolding players and announcing a player has a mental health coach, cocaine problem or broke ridiculous rules during the lock downs, the players become impossible to trade based off of your own words. However now we are here and with have to deal with the consequences of the bed GMBM made.

            Lesson: Keep it in house

            Kuznetsov, the league took the bait. I would honestly consider any GM whom traded for Kuznetsov right now the smartest GM in the NHL because there would likely be a discount involved. Watch if Kuznetsov is traded every team in the Nhl is going to wish they got him.

            I don’t even know how GMBM could suggest Mantha to another team as a great addition. We are well past “change of scenery” territory.
            If he was attempting to do that, imagine what other GM’s are thinking of him right now. How can you trust the guy?

            Sammy, we should of got a haul for Sammy, what did not help was Ovie cursing him out in Russian, Lock down trouble with Kuznetsov, 4 wheeler accident and making Sammy a scape goat for losses earned by the team in front of him. The word immature was used at one point on TV.

            When did this culture of devaluing our own players publicly start? I’m sure Gary loved all the lip service and self ownership/disciplinary action but as we see now, it hurt the Capitals.

            I completely understand why Kuznetsov is disgruntled and mailing it in. He feels attacked by his organization. Watch some of his post game interviews from this past season.

            1. He makes a joke after scoring “I should be good for another ten games”

            2. scolded Al Kokin that “it was not a lucky bounce”

            3. The out door game ” I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy life” para-phrasing.

            Once again Mantha, instead of us all just saying he sucks, the Caps organization has gone above and beyond to show and tell the entire NHL and then say “today was not our day” after they could not trade him?

            What did GMBM expect.
            Big lessons should be learnt here!
            I hope Ted see’s it
            I sure as heck do

            Keep it in house!

  4. hockeydruid says:

    Pacioretty I can see bringing in, but not hurt and not sure when he will play, but I also have to ask why when he is injured do you, the dumbest of GM’s in the league, give him a $2 million contract, which also includes a $2 million bonus if the 34-year-old meets an games-played mark and the deal also contains a no-movement clause, so those of you saying trade him later in the year if he is healthy and playing well…..that isn’t going to happen! Does he think that this solves anything? IF Pacioretty were to play all year and do well this actually hurts the team in draft slot to get younger and better players. Sorry guys but playing to get a record at the expense of the future of this team is just silly.

    The signing of Edmundson is another block-head move as it prevents the development of younger players like Fehervary and Alexeyev. Sorry Gm but if you are going to have a team that is not challenging for the Cup, and its not going to do that again until after Ovie leaves, you should be playing the young players rather than getting washed up older players just to make it look like you are doing something other than destroying the future of this team. Yes he is cheap and only on a 1 year contract but the lost draft picks mean a lot more than this player in the future.

    As for worrying about fans, either this ownership and Gm don’t care or they know that fans of other teams will buy seats if the Caps fans don’t show up. Does anyone remember when the marketing strategy was come see the Bruins, Rangers or even certain players rather than pushing to come see the Caps play? Now they will also push for fans to come see Ovie score a goal and have a ton of bobble head nights. Heck do like they do at minor league baseball stadium and have either ex players or players who are going to be healthy scratches sit at a table in the lobby and sign autographs as that will draw many a fan!! Why not sell out totally and get retired players from other teams to come in and sell autographs and admit that the next 3 years are lost and all you are worried about is a record and money!

    I have gone to games and been a fan of this team for a long time and watched them and cheered for them in good times and bad and this wasting years of players careers just to get one player a record is the worst. I admit Ovie is a special player but to put him above having a winning record or legitimately going after the Cup should slap every true hockey fan in the face. .

  5. Ratelle says:

    Wtf kind of BS acquisitions are these??? Over the hill, injury prone, 35 years old, mediocre D, how the hell does this help in any way? Smh, and the draft seemed like such a promising start.

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