The Washington Capitals are reportedly interesting in entering the Vladimir Tarasenko sweepstakes, and it’d be a deal that would come with several implications heading into a wild offseason.
Bringing Tarasenko on board would give Washington another top-6 star and Stanley Cup champion, and help the team shake up its power play and secondary scoring. Still, what does it mean with the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft and free agency around the corner?
First off, the Capitals don’t have a lot of cap space to easily pull a deal like this off. With Alex Ovechkin’s extension pending, the salary’s going to be tight, and Tarasenko has a $7.5 million cap hit over the next two years. Washington will have to dump significant space, and likely offer a strong package with top players for the Russian sniper. The Capitals could also utilize the expansion draft to the
Right now, the Capitals are already deep on the right side. They acquired Anthony Mantha in a blockbuster trade for Jakub Vrana, and also have T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Garnet Hathaway. Mantha, Oshie and Wilson all have top-6 potential and a cap hit of over $5 million. If Tarasenko draws in on the first or second line, that leads to a surplus and a top-6, high-salary player dropping to the third and fourth lines.
That being said, it’s a realistic thought that the Caps would give up one of their RWs in some form. The expansion draft is coming up and there are only so many forwards Washington can protect. Could Tarasenko speculation mean that the team plans to expose Oshie after all to open up another spot for Tarasenko, and then have him and Mantha on the top-6 with Wilson on the third line?
It’s hard to imagine that Washington doesn’t protect Oshie. He signed a long-term deal with Washington and has been one of their most important leaders and fuels the winning culture throughout the room. Losing a dedicated player, who still has a lot left in him, to Seattle would not be ideal, especially when No. 77 wants to remain in D.C. Plus, Oshie told NBC Sports Washington that the Capitals haven’t discussed the expansion draft with him. That alone makes it seem likely that Oshie will remain in D.C.
Washington also gave up a lot for Mantha, and Brian MacLellan mentioned that the team liked his play and had been keeping an eye on him while he was playing in Detroit. With that being said, it’s hard to see the Capitals letting him go either. That of course, leaves Tom Wilson and Garnet Hathaway for the taking.
Then, we circle back around to the possibility of an Evgeny Kuznetsov trade. Both of them are 29 and have a similar cap hit, and Washington, per Frank Seravalli, could be ready to move on for Kuznetsov following off-ice complications. However, you still come back to the surplus of right wings and also lose a first-line center. The Capitals do have the depth to pull it off with Lars Eller showing that he can play on the second line Connor McMichael on the rise, and they could turn to free agency for another option.
In the end, for a player like Tarasenko, injury concerns aside, Washington would likely to give up a top-6 guy and shake up the roster quite a bit. The only question is how.