The Washington Capitals are closing in on the start of the 2022-23 campaign and are coming off a busy offseason that saw some key acquisitions, as well as some departures. And while the team did a lot to bolster its blue line heading into training camp, there is still an interesting defensive option remaining on the NHL Free Agency market in P.K. Subban.
Subban, a former All-Star, remains an unrestricted free agent after three years with the New Jersey Devils, where his elite play and production dropped off. He is coming off a so-so season that saw him dish 22 points in 71 games while struggling with puck possession and defensive coverage.
Still, the 33-year-old wants another opportunity to recapture the success he found with the Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens, and that could be easier with a playoff-caliber club and top contender.
When it comes to potential landing spots, The Hockey News’ Eric Stephens mentioned that the Capitals could be an interesting spot for No. 76 to end up. However, is it possible?
First off, this kind of move is something that Washington has made recently. Days before the start of 2021 training camp, the Capitals signed Boston Bruins legend Zdeno Chara to a low-risk, one-year deal worth $750,000. The former All-Star was past his prime but still brought a lot to the table as a third-pairing blueliner and beloved locker-room presence. However, this time around, there’s more defensive depth, and the team already has quite a few cooks in the kitchen.
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With Justin Schultz and Michal Kempny leaving the club this summer, Washington brought in puck-mover Erik Gustafsson to fill that void on the third-pairing and allow Trevor van Riemsdyk to switch back to his natural right side. And after Gustafsson, the team also brought in Gabriel Carlsson and re-signed Matt Irwin. Then, of course, there’s Lucas Johansen, who’s looking to make the NHL jump.
So, when it comes to where Subban would fit, there’s not a lot of room with the influx of blueliners.
Then, of course, comes the issue of cap space. While Subban at this point likely wouldn’t cost too much, there’s not a lot of room to work with. Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and Carl Hagelin are on the LTIR, but Hagelin is skating again and could be back sooner rather than later. Also, Wilson will be back around December.
And, although Backstrom could miss the entire campaign, Wilson and Hagelin coming back on the books would lead to a big cap crunch and in turn, moves to be made. So there’s not exactly a lot of flexibility on that front, either.
Still, there are some pros to considering Subban. He’s a veteran right-hand shot, and beyond Trevor van Riemsdyk, there’s not too much depth on the right side. Gustafsson, Carlsson, Irwin and Johansen are all LHD. And though someone can switch to their offside, it’s not as easy as TVR makes it look. So, could a low-risk, cheap deal be an answer?
At this point, it doesn’t appear likely, as the Capitals have been high on their blue line upgrades this season and are also expecting strong showings and battles for a full-time role for Gustafsson, Johansen and more.