Capitals Trade Rumblings
What Will Trade Deadline Look Like For Capitals? Potential Moves As Playoff Race Tightens
It’s crunch time for the Washington Capitals, and the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline will provide the team plenty to think about going forward.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline looming, the Washington Capitals are also in the throes of one of the most intense playoff races they've encountered in years. Not only is there no margin for error, but there is also the need to address some of the Capitals' shortcomings and needs as they make their final push.
Washington's All-Star Break officially ends Thursday, as the team will return for an afternoon practice and have the chance to shake off some rust before returning to game action on Saturday against the league-leading Boston Bruins. Not only will that be a difficult matchup, but the Capitals haven't gotten any help from the rest of the league, as several of their Metropolitan Division rivals have already gotten back to work and eaten away at any safety net Washington had.
The New York Islanders secured back-to-back wins to tie the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second Wild Card spot, and the Penguins maintained their position with an overtime win back on Tuesday. Both are one point behind the Capitals, and the New York Rangers now have a four-point cushion for third place in the Metro. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres continue to lurk.
Not only does Washington need to find the consistency that rocketed the team up the standings in December, but the team has to address several roster questions. There are 12 pending free agents, with seven of them being defensemen. The only defender signed beyond 2023 is John Carlson. And, speaking of Carlson, the team continues to deal with injuries. Carlson remains on the long-term injured reserve and is still "a ways away" from returning after taking a slapshot to the face back on Dec. 23, and Connor Brown and Carl Hagelin are also still on LTIR. Nic Dowd is on the injured reserve, and Wilson is also dealing with another lower-body injury.
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Taking all of that into account, it's crunch time in D.C., and a move at the deadline seems more likely. The biggest need is more defensive depth with Carlson potentially out for the remainder of the regular season and the team lacking depth and security on the blue line after this season, and Lars Eller has been a name thrown around as a trade chip that could bring in some help on the d-corps. There is also the question of the struggling power play, but a puck-moving blueliner could also help with that.
There is also the question of Anthony Mantha's future with the team following a number of healthy scratches and a lack of consistency. There's one more year left on his contract, which carries an AAV of $5.75 million. However, a lot of those rumblings are the result of pure speculation. Washington also has to address a number of pending free agents and could find ways to add more youth and depth beyond this season, which would also benefit the team following the signings of Dylan Strome and Sonny Milano.
General manager Brian MacLellan also said a few weeks back that there could be some last-minute moves and trades made depending on where the team stands health-wise, as he also cited "little things going on" with captain Alex Ovechkin and right wing T.J. Oshie. Right now, there doesn't appear to be too much room when it comes to incorporating another forward, though the team is reportedly expected to sign Hershey Bears All-Star Ethen Frank.
In the end, the Capitals are in a position where they will likely have to do something at the trade deadline. However, their moves will be fully dependent on the status of all 23 skaters on March 3.