Friday morning, the Washington Capitals made their first significant move of the offseason, flipping Matt Niskanen and his $5.75 million cap hit to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas ($3.35 million). With the Flyers hanging on to approximately $1M of Gudas’s salary for next season, the Capitals received a salary cap savings of approximately $3.4 million for next season.
That cash should go a long way to keeping the team intact with young players like Jakub Vrana, Andre Burakovsky, Christian Djoos all restricted free agents and Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby eligible for extensions in July.
But according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the Capitals would like to use part of that cap space on Carl Hagelin. The Capitals acquired Hags at the deadline from the Los Angeles Kings for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Caps are still trying to re-sign trade deadline pickup and pending UFA Carl Hagelin so yet another reason for the cap space clearing. They've got a bunch of expiring deals. Needed more flexibility
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 14, 2019
Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman added “it would not be a stunner” if MacLellan re-signed Hagelin with the money.
It would not be a stunner if WASH used some of this newly-created cap space to re-up Carl Hagelin (pending whatever else GM Brian MacLellan is up to).
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 14, 2019
The 30-year-old Hagelin saw his career get rejuvenated in Washington as he, in the words of Peter Hassett, turned the Capitals “from decent to deadly” down the stretch. After tallying eight points in 38 games with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, Hagelin broke out in DC scoring 11 points in 20 games. The long-haired Swede became a key member on the penalty kill. At even strength, he tilted the ice for the Capitals, putting up a 54.7 five-on-five shot-attempt percentage. He also was one of the quickest players on a very fast team.
The Caps went from having 48 percent of shot attempts to having 54 percent. They went from having 47 percent of expected goals to 50. And they went from scoring 53 percent of goals to 61 percent. All because of one player hopping around the middle six, making everyone around him better like bacon bits on a salad.
That’s not because Hagelin is a good player, which of course he is, but because the ways in which he is good were the precise ways in which the Caps had been bad. The Caps didn’t need scoring, they needed reliable transition play. They didn’t need physicality, they needed speed. They got it, and for a few weeks they really were the best team in the National Hockey League.
Hagelin is coming off a four-year contract that saw him make $4 million a year. The Penguins paid part of Hagelin’s salary while he was in Washington.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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