After being eliminated in the first round by the Presidents Trophy winning Florida Panthers, the Capitals have been eliminated in four straight first rounds since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.
As the core ages, with expiring contracts freeing up cap space for General Manager Brian MacLellan to work with, and with the likely career ending injury of Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals need to make off-season moves that will reinvigorate the roster for playoff success.
In this article, there are a few possible possible and potential targets that the Capitals can seek out for this off season. Along with possible targets, there will also be potential trade proposals and player offloading that could change the breakup of the roster.
Though a fan favorite, Lars Eller is a player that may need to be offloaded from the Capitals roster.
Eller is had been a stable part of the team, owning the third line and making it his own, and even stepping up to player a greater role on the second line when needed. Eller will also be remembered for scoring the game winning Stanley Cup clinching goal back in 2018.
However, all good things must come to an end eventually and it could be possible that Eller has played his last game in a Capitals sweater. The Dane is currently making $3.5 Million against the cap and has shown slight regression this past season.
With the likes of McMichael on the rise, it is possible that it could be time to move on from Eller.
|Second or Third Round Pick (2022 or 2023)||Lars Eller|
Though this trade proposal could realistically work for any Western Conference team looking to add another seasoned veteran center to their team, with a second or third round pick, the main objective of the trade here is to off load the salary cap of Eller.
Eller is still a player that can compete at the highest level, however with that cap hit, no clause in Eller’s contract preventing the move, and with the success window of the Capitals closing, change has to be made.
With the impressive numbers of Hunter Sheppard in recent years, and the fact that both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanacek are restricted free agents, it could be time to move on from one of the two European goalies.
After experimenting with both goalies to little success this season, the Capitals are now faced with the issue of having to decide which of the two goalies are more likely to be the strong NHL starter that they were both projected to become at one point in their careers.
Having to choose between the two is a tough situation, as both goalies have shown that they can perform on their great night, but consistency is key and both have lacked that aspect to some degree.
Depending on interest and offers from other teams, it might be best to trade one of them for a high draft pick.
|Second Round Pick (2022 or 2023) (Or Best Offer)||Samsonov or Vanacek|
Similar to the Eller trade, moving one of the two goalies for a high draft pick to the highest bidding Western Conference team could be a solution to potential cap issues in the future. As both goalies are RFAs and have been competing against each other in the system for years, it seems like it might be time to move on.
Paying and extending both goalies may cause cap issues in the future, and its best to decide who is the best choice now, given the closing success window of the team.
Nazem Kadri was an unbelievable player for the 2022 Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche and is a unrestricted free agent this summer.
At the age of 31, and coming off of a career high 87 points this past regular season, he could possibly be hottest free agent on the market. However, not all teams can afford to pay him, but given the circumstances with Backstrom possibly retiring, the Capitals may have the opportunity to make the signing.
Additionally, the Capitals have been criticized since winning the cup for taking the foot off the gas pedal during the playoffs, Kadri could possibly be the player to ignite the roster again, given the passion he showed in previous playoffs.
|Washington Capitals||Free Agent|
|Nazem Kadri||$7.8 Million|
Though it is likely that Kadri is offered more, given the cap structure of the Capitals having Kuznetsov being the main man down the middle, paying Kadri over Kuznetsov would break an unwritten rule.
However, the number could possibly reach $8.25 Million given the market, rising salary cap, and Kadri’s success over the past year.
JT Miller is a player that has had much success in Vancouver and is on an expiring value deal. Scoring 99 points in 80 games, while sitting on a $5.25 Million cap hit is an absolute bargain and would be a great addition to the team.
Miller is able to play in the middle or on the left wing showing that he would add serious depth to the team in two possible positions.
Since Miller is on an expiring deal, it is also possible to get another team in on a three-way deal to retain some of the salary that Miller has, to save another $2.625 Million against the cap.
Miller will be an expensive addition, but the upside and value on the table is too high to potentially miss out on. The Capitals also have a plethora of assets to move and potentially make it happen as well.
|Washington Capitals||Vancouver Canucks||Third Team (Salary Retention Team)|
|JT Miller (50% Retained by Third Team)||Hendrix Lapierre||Second/Third Round Pick (As Compensation for Salary Retention) from WSH|
|WSH 2022 First Round Pick (20th Overall)|
|WPG 2022 Second Round Pick (46th Overall) (From WSH)|
Though the Canucks will likely want a king’s ransom for Miller, the Capitals do have the assets such as a high value prospect in Lapierre to make the move, along with several draft picks that can be added to the trade. It is possible that Vancouver will likely demand more, however given the circumstances of the Fiala trade that occurred earlier, this is relative.
For the third retention team, taking on the salary will likely mean that they can reach the salary floor (as these teams usually are rebuilders). They will also get some means of compensation for their involvement in the deal.
Though these transactions are what we can dream to see, given the circumstances of the situation, they are quite possible. These trades would also heavily change the make up of the Capitals roster and could potentially put them in cup contention again.
If both onboarding signings go as listed, the Capitals would have spent $10.425 Million on adding JT Miller and Nazem Kadri to the roster, which would only be about $1.225 Million over what Backstrom was making.
Given the idea to move Eller as well, that would mean that the Capitals would be at a net gain of $2.275 Million worth of cap space, which could be used to sign one of the two goalies.