Improving the Washington Capitals’ top six has long been the focus of general manager Brian MacLellan.
Only a few weeks into the season, another team’s potential loss could be the Capitals’ gain.
The Calgary Flames, sitting at 2-6-1, are “on the precipice of having to take a radical new approach,” according to Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, one that would feature “a significant re-tooling.”
Contract talks are now on hold, which immediately brings into question the futures of impending free agents Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, while veterans like Nazem Kadri may be unwilling to stick around for such an extreme shift in the team’s direction. And that is where the Capitals may benefit.
There are plenty of intriguing options throughout the Flames’ roster, some of which could provide the jolt the Capitals need to return to the playoffs.
Elias Lindholm, center
Lindholm, 28, is no stranger to trade rumors as he nears the end of a six-year, $29.1 million deal he signed in 2018. If the Flames can’t resign him, a player of Lindholm’s caliber would likely bring back an important return, especially when the alternative is letting him walk in free agency for nothing.
For the Capitals, acquiring Lindholm would likely be a challenge. The team lacks any enticing roster players that would result in a strong offer, but the team does possess eight picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts and a prospect pool deepened by a strong draft this past offseason.
Nazem Kadri, center
On paper, the 33-year-old Kadri is in Calgary for the long haul as he’s in the second year of a 7-year, $49 million contract he signed last year. His contract includes a no move clause, which he may be willing to waive if he doesn’t want to wait around for changes in Calgary at his age.
A swap for Evgeny Kuznetsov could be a starting point in trade talks — a move that would work given Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million cap hit. Calgary may be drawn to the term differential with Kuznetsov hitting free agency after next season, but adding Kadri to an aging Capitals squad — especially through his age 39 season — would definitely hamper the team’s long-term expectations.
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Jonathan Huberdeau, winger
Huberdeau is Calgary’s No. 3 point scorer on the young season, which would allow him to fit in well with a Capitals team that ranks among the league’s worst in shots on goal. But creating a deal for the 30-year-old is quite the task for the Capitals.
Like Lindholm, the price to pay for Huberdeau via trade is likely far out of the Capitals’ price range. Huberdeau’s contract — which carries a $10.5 million cap hit until 2031 — is hard to fit on the current Capitals’ roster, not to mention that he’ll be 38-years old when it ends.
Dillon Dube, forward
Given the makeup of the Capitals’ current roster, Dube’s versatility may make him the most appealing option. He could slot in on the wing or at center, which is key given the Capitals’ influence of veteran talent.
However, Dube may not be on the chopping block just yet. He’s a restricted free agent this offseason, and it would make sense for him to stick around in Calgary if the Flames’ front office were focused on a retooling, not a full rebuild.