With the Stanley Cup Playoffs now over, the offseason began in earnest for the Capitals on Friday as the team traded defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Radko Gudas. According to Mike Vogel, Philadelphia will retain 30-percent of Gudas’ salary.
“We would like to thank Matt for all his contributions to our organization for the past five seasons,” general manager Brian MacLellan said in the team’s official announcement. “Matt is a consummate professional and was a big part of our success. We wish him and his family all the best moving forward.
“We feel this move provides us with financial flexibility as we look for additional ways to strengthen our team. In addition, we are pleased to welcome Radko to our organization. Radko is a good defensive defenseman that plays a competitive, physical game.”
The trade moves Niskanen’s $5.75 million cap hit off the books. Gudas’ cap hit is for $3.35 million, but the Caps only added $2.345 million of that with the Flyers retaining the rest. That means the team has freed up $3.405 million of caps space with the move and addressed a need for depth, veteran defense.
Heading into the offseason, Washington’s salary cap situation appeared dire. The team needed to move salary and Niskanen was thought to be perhaps on the trade block as he is 32, has a large cap hit for two more seasons and had a down year last season. Add in the fact that the team acquired another right-shot defenseman at the trade deadline in Nick Jensen and a move like this should come as no surprise.
Niskanen was one of the first big signings MacLellan made when he took over as general manager in 2014. Niskanen has been a mainstay on the blue line in Washington ever since, teaming up with Dmitry Orlov as an effective shutdown pair. His time with the Caps ends after five seasons and 390 games.
Gudas, 29, has played in 416 NHL games in his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Flyers. He plays a physical game and is a defensive defenseman.
It is also significant that Gudas is a right-shot defenseman as well. Assuming Jensen moves up to the second pair to play with Orlov, that leaves Jonas Siegenthaler and Christian Djoos—assuming he re-signs as a restricted free agent—as candidates for the third pair, but both players shoot left. Gudas provides a veteran option to help mentor the two young defensemen and to cycle in on the right with them.
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