Capitals’ Gustafsson, Milano Statistically Ranked Among NHL’s Best Bargain Deals
Erik Gustafsson and Sonny Milano rank among the biggest steals of the offseason and are giving the Washington Capitals the biggest bang for their back.
WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals had several questions to answer this summer, as injuries up front and several departures led to vacancies on defense and the forward lines. And in addition to big names like Dylan Strome and new goaltenders in Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren, general manager Brian MacLellan also made two low-risk deals that have turned to be some of the biggest steals of the offseason: Erik Gustafsson and Sonny Milano.
Gustafsson came in on a one-year, $800,000 contract with the expectation of playing on the third pairing with Trevor van Riemsdyk following the departure of Justin Schultz. He has quickly become a top-pairing defenseman, and with John Carlson out indefinitely, he is playing more minutes, producing and making a case as the No. 1 blueliner. The 30-year-old leads all Washington d-men in assists (18) and points (25), and all seven of his goals have come over the course of his last 11 games, where he has 15 points.
"You know we have a couple guys on injured list now and we just gotta keep this train going as far as we can till the guys are back," Gustafsson said. "It's gonna be fun to see those guys coming back and we top of the standings so we just got to try to stay up there the whole time and try to win every game we can. It's fun to play on the first power play and just try and take the opportunity as I can."
Among all defensemen under standard contract, Gustafsson has the fourth-lowest cost per point ($32,000), and he is the only player in the NHL that costs under $1,000 per minute ($969), per CapFriendly. He averages 19:39 minutes per game. He has also taken over for Carlson on the top power play. The Swede is on pace for 48 points this season as he continues to show flashes of the 60-point season he had in 2018-19.
“Gus really seems to be spreading his wings right now, getting an opportunity to play a lot of big minutes and was with Carly and now still taking down big minutes and on that power play. It’s just something that he’s done in his past that maybe just has not been there for him and there’s an opportunity available for him now and he certainly is soaring with that.”
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Sonny Milano has also been a nice acquisition since signing a one-year, $750,000 deal just three games into the season amid questions up front. Through 30 games, he has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points, which puts him on a .63 points-per-game pace. That would translate to 51 points in a full 82-game campaign. The 26-year-old has the eighth-lowest cost-per-point ($39,473) among standard-contact players, as per the same data.
Milano has thrived with Washington's systems and said that he feels he is getting trust from Peter Laviolette and that he is enjoying his time and chemistry in D.C. so far.
"I don't know how my game's evolved… I'm just happy to be here," he said.
Overall, Washington made two big steals and is getting the best bang for its buck with Gustafsson and Milano, and the Capitals are seeing the rewards of a strong offseason show up not only on the ice, but on the stat sheet.