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Capitals Face Hard Decisions, Likely Moves If Hagelin Returns For 2022-23



Capitals forward Carl Hagelin

The Washington Capitals got positive news on the Carl Hagelin front, as the Swede took the ice at the team’s informal skate on Friday. However, his return to the lineup could end up putting the team in a tough position that could lead to a trade.

At the end of a March 1 practice, Hagelin was participating in competition drills when he took a stick up high, which went under his titled visor and through his left eye. It ruptured his choroid, and that night, he underwent surgery. However, despite a couple of procedures, his vision would never return to 100 percent, and he would have to work to get back his depth perception while relying on his “good eye” to compensate.

“Status is still that the eye, it’s healing. It’s in that process. I’m doing everything I can to be back next year,” Hagelin said back in May, adding, “I’m staying positive and I’m optimistic that I’m going to come back next year. It’ll be a grind, of course. I’ll do everything I can this summer to be ready for camp.

“I’ve always said to myself, I’m a positive person, an optimistic person. And I need to stay that way and keep pushing for next season.”

General manager Brian MacLellan said the team will get a clearer update on the 34-year-old at some point in August, and given the fact that he’s back on the ice skating, it can only mean progress and good news.

RELATED: Washington Capitals’ Carl Hagelin Opens Up About Eye Injury, Shares Story Of ‘Total Darkness’

Still, Hagelin returning would add to an influx of forward additions that the team has made over the offseason and would also mean that his $2.5 million would come back on the books. The Capitals re-signed Marcus Johansson this offseason and also added Dylan Strome, Connor Brown and Henrik Borgstrom.

Not only that, but the team also has Connor McMichael battling for the third-line center role with Lars Eller. And one of them will likely end up shifting to the wing. And, all the while, prospects like Joe Snively and Brett Leason are coming into the year on one-way deals, and Hendrix Lapierre also still has his sights set on NHL ice time.

Without Hagelin, the opening night forward lines could potentially have stacked up like this:

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Connor Brown

Anthony Mantha-Dylan Strome-T.J. Oshie

Lars Eller-Connor McMichael-Conor Sheary

Marcus Johansson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway

However, with Hagelin drawing back in — and likely rejoining the fourth line powerhouse alongside Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, there’s an extra forward that will have to be the odd man out. This is considering that No. 62 won’t be dealt, which seems likely given his injury and value.

Ultimately, Washington could bench Johansson. However, he also did a solid job on the top-6 to close out last season and can fit in several areas. Plus, if Anthony Mantha can’t find success on the top-6, he may have to shift down.

READ MORE ON WHN: Washington Capitals Start Returning For Informal Skates

But ultimately, the third line might be the likeliest candidate for a switch, as Eller or McMichael could draw out depending on who wins the 3C position in order to make room for another winger.

Here are some possibilities if No. 62 returns to open the campaign:

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Connor Brown

Anthony Mantha-Dylan Strome-T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson-Connor McMichael/Lars Eller-Conor Sheary

Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway


Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Connor Brown

Anthony Mantha-Dylan Strome-T.J. Oshie

Lars Eller-Connor McMicahael-Conor Sheary

Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway

Then, of course, comes the salary question. Hagelin’s salary coming back won’t be too much of an issue with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson’s salaries remaining on the LTIR to open the campaign, but when Wilson does come back, the team will be in a cap crunch and have to clear that space.

In the end, Washington will have to make a trade at some point to make room. However, Hagelin’s return may lead to the team making that move sooner rather than later. of course, a trade could include No. 62, but that may be