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Capitals’ Free Agent Situation To Make For Interesting Trade Deadline

The Washington Capitals have a total of 12 pending free agents on the active roster, and that should make things interesting at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.

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With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline less than a month away, the Washington Capitals have questions to answer and a bit of work to do, as the team considers its needs for a final playoff push and has to look ahead to the future with a number of pending free agents.

Looking at the active roster, the team has a total of 12 pending free agents (10 of those are UFAS), with five of those being forwards and seven being defensemen. Washington took care of two soon-to-be free agent forwards back over the All-Star Weekend, inking Dylan Strome and Sonny Milano to multi-year extensions. Per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, both of those negotiations began around New Year's and hint at the Capitals' mindset heading toward the March 3 deadline.

"The Capitals have a lot of decisions to make all up and down their lineup. it’s kind of interesting to see that they prioritize the forwards first because they only have one defenseman signed beyond this year… It says to you that Washington is trying to see what's our business," Friedman said on his latest "32 Thoughts" podcast episode. "We know what we have to do, what we need to know, what we can do… the next few weeks will be interesting. I'm wondering what the Capitals are going to do if some of these players remain unsigned."

On the forward front, Marcus Johansson, Conor Sheary, Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are all set to hit the market on July 1. Meanwhile, injured forwards Connor Brown and Carl Hagelin are UFAs at the end of the season as well. Johnasson and Sheary have not disappointed this season, as both have proven to be vital in adding versatility and secondary scoring to the lineup, and they appear the most likely to receive extensions in D.C. as both have fit in perfectly with Washington.

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Perhaps more pressing, every blueliner on the active roster, with the exception of an injured John Carlson, is on an expiring contract. There are several young defensemen in the system, but the team needs to maintain NHL depth on the blue line to remain competitive. Erik Gustafsson has shown the Capitals that he is worthy of an extension, and Dmitry Orlov has been a longtime staple of the blue line that should get the opportunity to re-up in the District.

Taking all of that into consideration entering the deadline, there are evident needs to address and business to be done. Per reports, the team is seeking help on the blue line to not only address the upcoming offseason situation but to help fill Carlson's void as he continues the long road back. And in turn, Eller's name has been thrown out as a trade chip. Washington's influx of pending UFAs could also appeal to teams who need rentals upfront. Still, there needs to be consideration with regard to where Nic Dowd and Tom Wilson are health-wise, as the team may need to hold onto those forwards if Dowd and Wilson are out longer.

The weeks ahead should be telling for the Capitals, and as Brian MacLellan mentioned, some of the team's moves and decisions may come at the last minute based on health and other factors.

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