The Washington Capitals needed to clear cap space, and they did just that on Monday. Washington traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for 2022 and 2023 second-round picks.
Dillon carries a cap hit of $3.9 million over the next three seasons. By dealing away the 30-year-old LHD, the Capitals cleared a good amount of cap space and now have $13.6 million. That will serve them well as they address UFA Alex Ovechkin and RFAs Ilya Samsonov and Lucas Johansen.
There is still a couple more outstanding items to be addressed, though. Washington may explore free agent goaltenders and could circle back to other free agents like Zdeno Chara and Michael Raffl. So, while this frees space now, the Capitals may not be done with trades.
In 56 games last season, Dillon registered two goals and 19 points and was a plus-15. The 6-4, 220-pound blueliner also led all Washington d-men with 124 hits and ranked third with a 56.04 GF% and fourth with a 50.40 CF%. He was exposed to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, but they elected to go with Vitek Vanecek.
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Losing Dillon will hurt, but the Capitals have several internal options to make up for the loss. Michal Kempny appears ready to make a comeback and is capable of playing top-4 minutes. If he’s healthy, he can complement Justin Schultz well on the second pairing. This also opens a spot for Martin Fehervary, who Brian MacLellan expects to make the NHL jump in 2021-22.
MacLellan also said he’d reach out to Chara to see if he was “serious” about returning, so if that somehow works out, he can be a replacement too.
Right now, this is what the Capitals blue line looks like heading into 2021-22. (Note: This features players under contract)
Michal Kempny-Justin Schultz
Martin Fehervary-Nick Jensen
In addition, the return should help Washington as they look to build their draft stock. The Capitals again have a 2022 second-rounder after they gave their original one up in the Jakub Vrana–Anthony Mantha blockbuster. They also now have two second-round selections in 2023.
Overall, this was a strong move for the Capitals. They clear necessary space, open spots on the blue line for Kempny’s return and Fehervary’s promotion and offer more flexibility down the road. On the other side of the spectrum, the Jets get a major upgrade on the backend.