The Washington Capitals are in a transition period this offseason, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. But as the start of free agency nears, what could that look like?
Today, Washington Hockey Now looks at Anthony Mantha. The Capitals gave up a load of value in exchange for the winger who, despite being on the better side of 30, has objectively underperformed during his two seasons in Washington.
The Case For Keeping Him
At 28, Mantha is one of the team’s younger regulars — a much needed role player as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie continue to age. And with more than two years in Washington already under his belt, Mantha has already built chemistry with the team’s core.
There is no denying that Mantha’s production has sagged since he was acquired by the Capitals in 2021, but he has shown much better numbers before. In four full seasons as a regular in Detroit, Mantha averaged 42.5 points per season — leaps and bounds higher than his 25 per in Washington.
Mantha’s contract, which carries a base salary of $6.5 million for the upcoming season, has one year remaining. There is little downside to letting him hit free agency after what could be another disappointing season, but the Capitals would likely be first in line to retain his services if he exceeds expectations. And with the team hiring Spencer Carbery as the new head coach, that gamble may just be worth it.
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The Case For Moving On
Ovechkin will be 38 at the start of the regular season and the Capitals’ contention window is barely being held open. Because of this, every roster move is calculated to squeeze the last bit of top-tier hockey out of Ovechkin that the team can — an approach that could spell doom for the underperforming Mantha.
Despite his lack of success, Mantha’s name has come up in trade talks this offseason, according to reports. If no deal is made in the offseason, Mantha’s value in another underperforming season would be on a drastic decline, making a deadline deal next to impossible.
And even if a trade partner cannot be found, the Capitals stand to save more than $2 million if they were to buy out his contract this summer — providing the team with a touch more salary cap flexibility.