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At What Point Would Capitals Consider Trading McMichael?



Capitals forward Connor McMichael

For Washington Capitals sophomore Connor McMichael, the 2022-23 campaign hasn’t gone according to plan by any means. And as the healthy scratches mount for No. 24, there’s a fair question: at what point does his name start popping up in trade discussions?

The 21-year-old, who had 18 points in 68 games last season, has been a scratch now for 13 of 17 games for the 7-9-2 Capitals, and he has yet to find the scoresheet. He also just has one shot through his five appearances, along with three blocks, one hit and one takeaway while averaging just 9:02 minutes per night. And, per Natural Stat Trick, McMichael has the lowest expected goals for-percentage (20.68) on the team, and the lowest scoring chances-for percentage (29.41) among Washington skaters with at least two games played.

When he does get to draw in, whether it be in wake of an injury (as was the case with T.J. Oshie, who’s out indefinitely) or a suspension (as was the case with Nicolas Aube-Kubel), he’s unable to show a lot in small sample sizes. He has also been on the wrong side of turnovers, mistakes and incorrect positioning and miscommunications. His backchecking isn’t as strong. In turn, he immediately draws back out of the lineup, with Joe Snively or another player (i.e. Beck Malenstyn, who won a full-time spot before his injury, or NAK coming in and getting a spot off waivers) taking his place.

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Despite the fact that he’s not playing all too much, the Capitals said last month that there are no plans to send him down to the AHL’s Hershey Bears for further development.

“No. He’s here. He’s part of our 23 right now. Things always change from guys going into the lineup or somebody gets injured or decisions in the roster that have to be made. There haven’t been any decisions and there hasn’t been any conversations about that right now,” head coach Peter Laviolette explained. “We’re, we got a roster going that we’re happy with. I’m sure it’s tough sitting out. Every player wants to play and that’s a good thing. He’s just got to keep working hard and wait for his chance.”

If that’s not the case, then something’s got to give, and it may come in the form of a trade.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an easy choice. The 2019 first-rounder is a talented player who still has a lot of upside and promise. He’s still in the very beginning of his career and has great speed, solid stickhandling ability and the ability to make plays. However, he just hasn’t been able to capture that yet, and it comes with more playing time and experience.

Looking at Washington’s current situation, though, he isn’t playing all too much, and having him on the roster isn’t necessarily conducive to him or the team. So taking that into account, a deal may be the best path forward if he’s not going down to the AHL.

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Plus, with how things are going for the Capitals to kick off the season, a trade may be necessary. Amid an influx of injuries to a number of stars and key forwards, there’s not a lot of chemistry right now on the forward lines, which has not only led to continued power-play woes but an overall lack of offense at 5-on-5. The season’s still young, and the playoffs aren’t out of reach yet, so making a move for some help up front may be a wise move. And McMichael, being a first-rounder, may add value to that trade package, though his lack of ice time may lessen that as well.

Still, there comes the question of what it’d mean for Washington’s future, and keeping McMichael may be important. He still has the ceiling to be a top-6 guy, and the Stanley Cup window is closing with the core aging. So, when the Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and Oshie core is gone, McMichael has the upside to be one of those new young core players. Plus, with an influx of free agents at the end of the year, he may have more of a chance to shine next season.

However, from the way things have started in D.C. for McMichael, there’s no guarantee that he is a top-6 forward in this league.

Not only that but there are also a lot of promising options that show that the future’s in good hands, including Hendrix Lapierre, who’s putting up stellar numbers in his rookie year with the Bears, as well as Ivan Miroshnichenko, who could be the steal of the 2022 NHL Draft, has been a goal-scoring machine since his return to play from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and can come over after his KHL deal expires in 2024.

READ MORE ON WHN: No, The Washington Capitals Don’t Have A Vendetta Against Connor McMichael, But Here’s What’s Up

And, of course, there’s also the question of “win now” or “win later.” As mentioned, the Stanley Cup window is closing. With Ovechkin and company reaching the end of their respective careers, getting a big piece for a chance to win with the same core may make a decision like trading McMichael easier.

Overall, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to No. 24, but a lot of it will depend on what the Capitlas think he’ll bring to the organization not only now but in the future as well.

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Stephen Fischer

I love the Caps, and this hurts to say, but they’re not realistic Cup contenders. They’re not realistic ECF contenders.Adding Backstrom, Oshie, Orlov and Wilson doesn’t put them on the level of Carolina, Tampa Bay, Boston or even the Rangers. It used to be that Ovi could take over games, and would seemingly do so once every two or three weeks. While still a threat every time he’s on the ice, he isn’t the player he was at 30. In short, the window is closed.

But the Caps are saddled with several bad contracts – Carlson, Oshie, Kuznetzov. McMichael ain’t the problem with this team – the team has aged and doesn’t have a lot of prospects for immediate improvement.

Trading CMM now – a classic case of selling low, would be a HUGE mistake. The Cup window for the Caps really started to close (quickly) about 4 days after they won in 2018 with letting Trotz walk out the door. That was an indication – at least to me, that winning another Cup was pretty much a pipe dream. The first year of Riordan gave me some false hope, but the series against Carolina showed me


I knew the moment Trotz left that we wouldn’t win another Cup. The reason why we won it was because of him, so why would I think his leaving would continue the team winning? Too many fans were mis touting the players as the reason for the win, well, we had the same players practically before Trotz came. Made no sense. And then to tout Reirden as some replacement was ridiculous. Having the right coach is crucial, especially for this team. What was Yogi’s comment about mental aspects of the game? The coach is responsible for that.

As for McMichael, he won’t be an asset anytime soon, and it’s a shame that he’s not sent to Hershey to gain more experience there. How isn’t that better than sitting on the bench? He’s not a good player. Can he be one one day? I’ve no clue because they aren’t giving him experience in Hershey, and he won’t get it in the NHL unless it’s in Arizona. Otherwise he sits or plays in the AHL. Yes, he’s already played in Hershey, but how does that compare to where he’s at now? Can he get in better game shape in Hershey and than get called up? Sure. The decision regarding keeping him here makes no sense.


I don’t know what McMichael’s ceiling is, but I’m sure it’s higher than Mantha’s. I would trade Mantha just to get him out of the way and give McMichael an extended look on the second line. Let him make his mistakes and learn from them. Let him see time on the PP. His problem right now is opportunity. I’m sure he has the mental toughness and the ability to stick to it. I think he’s a keeper and would be a solid top 6 winger in the league. But he’ll never get there sitting in the press box.

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