It’s a make or break season for Washington Capitals winger Anthony Mantha and he knows it.
So much so that he’s committed to trimming down to 232 pounds — 10 fewer than his playing weight last season — with the intention of playing a leaner, faster game in the 2022-23 season.
“I felt I was missing a little notch in my game in that respect,” Mantha told RDS, the French-language counterpart of TSN, according to a DeepL translation. “Being stronger and leaner to be more explosive.”
Mantha, 28, enters the final year of his contract after tallying a mere 27 points — 11 goals, 16 assists — in 67 games last season.
“I need to have a big season,” Mantha said. “Let’s face it, this is the last year of my contract and I’d like to bounce back. It’s practically a second chance after last season. I’ve had other less successful seasons in the NHL or AHL, so I know how to come back strong,”
It’s been rough goings in Washington for Mantha, who the Capitals acquired in 2021 after sending Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first-round pick and a second-round pick to Detroit. Mantha saw his stats quickly crater in the nation’s capital, where he’s yet to tally a 30-point season in two-and-a-half seasons.
Sidelined for all but 37 games after suffering a shoulder injury during the 2021-22 season, Mantha tallied only 23 points — nine goals, 14 assists. In 67 games last season, Mantha’s 27 points place him among the team’s least-productive regulars.
“He had periods where I thought he found his game and was competing hard,” MacLellan said on breakdown day. “Near the end I don’t think he was a confident player and playing at his highest level.”
The NHL odds don’t like the Capitals with a struggling Mantha, either.
Mantha, who twice has tallied a career-high 48 points in a season, says he’s eyeing 60 this year — and it seems as if he’ll have every chance possible to get there.
Despite the addition of winger Max Pacioretty, who is expected to miss the beginning of the season, the Capitals’ salary cap situation has prevented general manager Brian MacLellan from making any major additions to the roster.
With Mantha’s $5.7 million cap hit on the books for one more season, he’s expected to still see plenty of ice time, but it’s up to him as to what the future holds.
The team’s training camp will begin on Sept. 20, before playing in five preseason games. The Capitals will open the regular season by hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 13.