Capitals

Capitals

The Capitals are more than $1.3 million over the salary cap and will have to find a way to shed salary before the start of the season. There are a few options for how they can do this including a trade and that sounds like it is exactly what general manager Brian MacLellan is considering.

"I think we'll probably have to move someone," MacLellan told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. "Injuries and all the stuff that happens in training camp and exhibition season probably dictates it a little bit, but we're going to be patient. We're not in a rush. We'll wait and let it play itself out."

Given what MacLellan said, a move is not likely before camp, but only before the season starts if there are no injuries and it is clear a move is absolutely necessary.

If and when it reaches that point, who could end up on the trading block?

It is important to remember first and foremost why the team is making a trade and what the goal is for this season. The Caps are trying to win a Stanley Cup and that makes trading players a risky proposition. Washington needs to dump salary, but needs to do so without hurting its chances to win. That limits the pieces they would be willing to trade.

To answer who MacLellan may be willing to trade, we first have to determine who he won’t. Anyone in the top-six on offense and top-four on defense will almost certainly be off-limits. Yes, including Dmitry Orlov. I bring him up because I know if I didn’t I would hear from plenty of commenters saying trading him is the obvious solution. It’s not.

 

Trading away a top-four defenseman, which Orlov absolutely is, and expecting no drop off from the defense is not realistic. “But wait,” I can already hear you asking, “Didn’t the Caps already trade Matt Niskanen?” Trading away Niskanen was only possible because the team had a replacement for him in Nick Jensen. Plus, analytically speaking, Radko Gudas may prove to be the better player at this point in their respective careers.

Washington has no clear replacement for Orlov. Sure, Jonas Siegenthaler looked good in limited playoff time last season. That is not enough time to determine he is ready for a top-four role. Christian Djoos played in 22 games in the team’s Cup run and yet half the Caps fans out there are ready to run him out of town. It’s too soon to promote Siegenthaler and you cannot step into a potential Cup run season with both players on the second defensive pair being question marks.

Braden Holtby is also not a viable trade option. A team with Cup aspirations cannot trade its starting goalie in favor of a prospect with zero NHL experience.

Considering how important the team feels center depth is, it should also be safe to take Lars Eller and Nic Dowd out of consideration. Richard Panik, Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway were important enough that MacLellan gave them all four-year contracts in the offseason. When you take away those possibilities, it leaves the team with only a handful of candidates.

Chandler Stephenson

There has been a lot of speculation over Stephenson's status after MacLellan signed several fourth-line players hoping to improve the team in areas that are supposed to be Stephenson’s strengths. Plus, Stephenson’s new contract comes in just below the maximum that can be buried in the AHL.

The only problem with a Stephenson trade is there would not likely be much value in it for opposing GMs. If the Caps do not make a trade this offseason, Stephenson would very likely start the season in Hershey. If there is any interest in him, most general managers will do the math and know that they probably could just wait until Washington has to place him on waivers and claim him then for free.

Stephenson would make sense from the Caps’ standpoint, but it is unlikely anyone would trade for him knowing the Caps’ cap situation.

How realistic is a trade? Definite possibility, but not likely

Travis Boyd

Boyd could have value as a potential third-line player and it would make sense for the Caps as he does not seem to immediately fit into their plans. With a likely third line of Hagelin, Eller, Panik and the fourth line of Brendan Leipsic, Dowd, Hathaway, Boyd may end up being a healthy scratch for much of the season.

 

The drawback to this is that Boyd’s cap hit of $800,000 and a trade would not provide as much relief as it would with some of the other candidates.

How realistic is a trade? Definite possibility

Brendan Leipsic

The Caps just signed Leipsic in the offseason for a modest cap hit of only $700,000. There is no trade value, it would not provide much relief and it would be a bad look to trade away a player right after signing him.

How realistic is a trade? Not happening

Radko Gudas

Niskanen was an obvious trade candidate because the team had Jensen as a replacement in the top four. Washington could have dumped Niskanen for draft picks or prospects, but instead specifically targeted Gudas. MacLellan even got Philadelphia to retain some of his salary. The team is not going to target Gudas for a third-line role just to trade him away before he ever puts on a Caps jersey.

How realistic is a trade? Unlikely

Christian Djoos

Djoos played a role in the Caps’ championship run on the third defensive pair. A significant injury contributed to a down year last season and now it is unclear exactly what they have. Do they have 2017-18 Djoos or 2018-19 Djoos?

Djoos’ down year lowers his value, but the potential there adds to the potential interest he may draw. His cap hit is $1.25 million which some teams may find steep, but he is only signed for one year. Plus, with players like Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary developing, there is a logjam of left-shot defensemen in the organization.

How realistic is a trade? Definite possibility

Jonas Siegenthaler

Siegenthaler is an up-and-coming defenseman who has size and mobility. He played well in the playoffs and there is a definite feeling that he is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. He is also cheap with a cap hit of less than $715,000. That’s not an asset you trade away.

How realistic is a trade? Not happening

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