The moves the Washington Capitals made before the 2023 trade deadline were, understandably, headlined by the players the franchise traded away. Washington moved on from five key veterans -- all on expiring contracts -- before the March 3 deadline, prioritizing the long-term future of the organization rather than the remainder of this season.
However, one of the young players the Capitals acquired in return has made an instant impact. That would be Rasmus Sandin, a promising defenseman who was previously buried on Toronto's third blue-line pair and hopeful of a bigger opportunity.
Since arriving in Washington, Sandin has played on the Capitals' top defensive pair with John Carlson still sidelined. And four games into his Capitals tenure, the recently turned 23-year-old has made the most of his opportunity -- and then some.
Sandin has recorded eight points since joining the Capitals, the most of any NHL defenseman during that span. He's turned in three multi-point outings in his first four games with the franchise, something no Capitals player had previously done before.
Following Saturday night's victory over the Islanders, a contest Sandin recorded three primary assists in, NBC Sports Washington's Alan May asked the Swede a simple question: What's going on with you?
"I have no idea. I'm a little bit surprised myself," a smiling Sandin said.
In his first game with the Capitals against San Jose last Saturday, Sandin recorded three assists in Washington's blowout victory over the Sharks. Two days later, he was part of both of Washington's goals against the Kings, picking up one goal and one assist in that contest. Then on Thursday against the Devils, Sandin turned in a career-high 29:58 minutes of ice time.
Saturday night's outing against the Islanders was perhaps his best with the club thus far, however. Sandin recorded three more points against New York, all assists, and played an instrumental role in the Capitals' impressive 5-1 victory over the team they're chasing in the playoff race.
"I'm just having fun out there," Sandin said. "All the guys are helping me out a lot out there. I'm just having a lot of fun."
With the Capitals trailing 1-0 early in the first period against the Islanders, Sandin found Dylan Strome on a pretty backhand pass to set up a goal-scoring opportunity. Strome fired a strike right above Semyon Varlamov's right shoulder, evening the contest at one just minutes later.
Sandin's exceptional passing skills were on display once again later in the first period, as the 23-year-old found T.J. Oshie on a perfect pass in front of the net to give Washington a 2-1 lead just 40 seconds before the first intermission. Sandin couldn't have placed the puck any better himself, giving Oshie a relatively easy tap-in for his 17th goal of the season.
Sandin wasn't done just yet, either. Late in the third period with the Capitals in control 4-1, the defenseman fired a shot from the point toward goal. Nicklas Backstrom deflected Sandin's shot perfectly past Varlamov, giving the blue liner his third assist of the evening -- a goal that put the finishing touches on a dominant victory by the visitors.
In just four games with the Capitals, it's easy to understand why Sandin is thrilled about the opportunity he has in Washington compared to the role he previously had in Toronto. Both he and the Capitals hope his recent success is just the start, too.
"I just feel confident. I'm getting a very big opportunity from the coaches," he said. "I feel like they really believe in me. All my teammates are helping me out so much on the ice. Those plays, obviously, they're working to get in the right position, too. I think we've been working together pretty good as a unit when we've been on the ice. I'm just super excited to be here and having a lot of fun out there."