The Capitals found themselves in unfamiliar territory ahead of this season's trade deadline, as recent struggles forced general manager Brian MacLellan to make the tough decision to sell off many of the team's assets.
In total, the Capitals traded five players --Garnet Hathaway, Dmitry Orlov, Marcus Johansson, Erik Gustafsson and Lars Eller -- in the days before the deadline, all of whom were on expiring contracts.
By parting with Gustafsson, the Capitals received an intriguing piece from the Toronto Maple Leafs: Rasmus Sandin, a 22-year-old defenseman who is under team control through the 2023-24 season.
"We like his age, we like his game," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Friday when asked about Sandin.
"He's a puck-moving skill defenseman, he's a competitive guy," MacLellan continued. "Real good 5-on-5 player so far, can add a little bit to the power play. And there's upside here."
In Toronto, Sandin was part of the Maple Leafs' third D-pairing. The Swede sought a bigger role ahead of the 2022-23 season -- he held out the beginning of training camp hoping for a new contract extension -- but that larger role never came.
Now in Washington, MacLellan said Sandin will initially have the chance to play on the Capitals' top defensive pairing alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk while John Carlson, Martin Fehervary and Nick Jensen are out with injuries.
"He's played mostly third pair in Toronto," MacLellan said. "He's gonna get an opportunity with us to play higher in the lineup and I think he's excited about it and I think he can take advantage of it."
In an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Al Koken, Sandin made it clear he's not taking any opportunity for granted but admitted he's looking forward to the challenge.
"You have to earn your ice time, but it's a fun opportunity," Sandin said. "I'm looking forward to it."
In 52 games for Toronto this season, Sandin has recorded 20 points (four goals, 16 assists). He's also totaled a career-high seven power-play points (and counting).
At 5-foot-11, 182 pounds, Sandin is far from a big-bodied defenseman. Yet, he believes physicality is one of his biggest strengths.
"I'd say I'm a two-way defenseman. Even though I'm not the biggest guy, I like to throw my body around sometimes and play a little physical," he said. "My strengths are just reading the game and making good plays with the puck. Hopefully, I can keep going and play [well] for the team here."
In Sandin, the Capitals' brass is quite excited about the potential he brings -- both in the present and the future.
"There's only room to grow for him," MacLellan said. "He's 22 years old and he's only going to get better going forward. We see, hopefully, a guy that we can build around moving forward, a young top-4 defenseman that will play here a long time hopefully."