Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman put a bow on the 2022-23 season with his final 32 Thoughts Podcast episode of the summer. In it, he and fellow insider Jeff Marek analyzed every team’s free agency moves and what they believe might be next for them.
Friedman echoed what Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said during his press conference over the weekend: the Capitals are still looking to make a deal to try and improve their top six.
He also gave some more background to his previous reporting that the Caps and Nashville Predators discussed a possible Evgeny Kuznetsov trade.
Elliotte Friedman: I still think there’s more coming here. Washington is one of the teams that is kind of let it be known they are prepared to make a move in their top six. And it’s a hockey trade. They’re not looking for a salary dump. They’re not looking for anything like that. They are looking to make a hockey trade in their top six.
They are open about it.
Now, it’s not going to be a Tom Wilson. I wasn’t in Brian MacLellan’s scrum when he was asked about Tom Wilson, but apparently he gave the death stare of all death stares to reporters for continually bring this up. Gary Galley, who was a freshman at bowling green when Brian MacLellan was a senior, has told me that is one of the scariest death stares he’s ever seen.
Before Nashville signed Ryan O’Reilly and they might have done it anyway, but they were talking to Washington about Kuznetsov. To be honest, I wonder if it was a Kuznetsov for Duchene deal. Because I heard it happened before Duchene was bought out. I kind of wonder if that’s what they were talking about. This trade fell apart. It makes a lot of sense, Barry Trotz won a Stanley Cup with Kuznetsov, who was incredible during that run. He played great. But that’s obviously over.
We’ll see what else Washington tries here. They are looking to make a hockey trade in their top six. I’ve mentioned DeBrincat, but I don’t know if that would all work. But that’s the kind of player they’ve looked at.
I think the guy they’re really hoping breaks through next year: Rasmus Sandin, next level. That’s the guy they want to see what everyone thinks he can become.
A Kuznetsov-for-Duchene deal would have seen the Capitals bring in a productive top-six winger, but on another pricey cap hit. Duchene scored 56 points (22g, 34a) this season with Nashville but made $8 million per year annually. Ultimately, Nashville bought out the remaining three years of his contract and Duchene signed a one-year, $3 million deal with Dallas on July 1.
The Capitals have come up as potential suitors for DeBrincat, but it’s unclear if they could handle his massive price tag — rumored to be around 8 years with an $8.7 million AAV — on top of the massive haul they would have to send back the other way to the Senators.
DeBrincat’s name has been in headlines for much of the last year due to the fact he does not want to sign a long-term contract with Ottawa and is a restricted free agent this summer. The Sens could bring DeBrincat back on a one-year deal through potential salary arbitration hearing but that would turn him into an unrestricted free agent during the 2024 offseason and hurt his trade value. The Sens would also risk losing him for nothing. Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion has stated the team does not want to risk that, but is not in a hurry to trade the young forward until their demands are met.
It’s unclear what other players the Capitals have looked into, but the team has made it know that both Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha are available.
“I think we’ve had an aggressive approach at the draft and nothing’s panned out,” MacLellan said. “We’ll continue to have the conversations going forward. I’m assuming you get to mid-July and things will quiet down and then back in the training camp things might pick up again.”
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