The Washington Capitals and general manager Brian MacLellan entered the 2023 offseason expecting to make a trade that would address their aging and overall relatively unproductive top-six forward group.
That major move was expected by many around the league to feature one or both of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha being shipped off to another team after disappointing seasons. But, both are still currently Caps.
MacLellan explained the current trade market situation around the league to Capitals’ senior writer Mike Vogel on Thursday and outlined why he has been unable to find a deal. He also reiterated that the Caps are not yet ready to give up on their pursuit.
“I’d still like to make a trade,” MacLellan said. “We were aggressive at the draft with our offers, but nothing ever materialized. I feel we have some pretty good offers out there, and the guys [we’re pursuing] haven’t moved yet. I don’t know if they move them now or when they move them. Maybe at the deadline? I’m not sure what happens. Some guys need to be signed. So we’ll stay involved in all of that stuff.”
One of the major reported reasons for the lack of trades is the league’s salary cap only raising by $1 million. MacLellan admitted he didn’t expect the sort of drastic measures other teams have been implementing to garner space.
“I’m probably a little surprised on how aggressive the buyouts and dumping of players was,” MacLellan said. “I didn’t expect that much of it. There was quite a bit of it. But I think everybody wants to make changes, and there’s no [salary cap] room to add. So you create more money in the system that way.”
Earlier in the summer, the Daily Faceoff’s Frank Servalli reported that the Caps had let other teams know that they were ready to move on from Mantha. One of the ways Seravalli surmised they could do so was via buyout. Mantha has one year remaining on his deal.
The Caps did not opt to do that during the late June buyout window. As things stand, it appears the team will let Mantha see if he can find his game in a contract year under new head coach Spencer Carbery. Things are less clear regarding Kuznetsov.
Vogel confirmed that the Russian pivot requested a trade from the team last season which was originally reported by Russian outlet Match TV in late March. When asked about the trade request, Kuznetsov didn’t directly deny the report, instead focusing his ire towards publications wanting likes on social media.
In the past, as Vogel states, the Caps haven’t kept players that have requested trades around for much longer after their request. For example, MacLellan himself has provided exits for both Andre Burakovsky and Jonas Siegenthaler after they sought to leave the team.
According to CapFriendly, the Caps have a projected $888,333 in cap space. That is with just 19 active players on their NHL roster so it’s clear that something else will have to give at some point in the coming months. Mantha and Kuznetsov are still the prime candidates to move as they’re due a combined $13.5 million against the cap next season.
What’s for sure is that MacLellan insists he’s not going to stop trying to tinker with his roster as he repeated to Vogel again at the end of their exclusive interview. He also makes sure to mention that the team still plans on trying to get younger despite those initial plans not coming to fruition.
“I think our strategy going into the draft time period was to make a trade,” MacLllean said. “To identify the age group we’re kind of targeting and try to make a trade to bring in a top six forward, to trade one or two guys, or whatever. We were open to possibilities.
“We pursued a number of things, but unfortunately it didn’t come through for us,” he finished. “So we were looking to add a top six guy through free agency, which we did with Pacioretty. And then we’ll continue to monitor the trade market. Ideally, we have a target age we’re looking for, and we’ll make a trade for that kind of guy.”
The Caps announced last week that Training Camp is due to start on September 20. They will likely look to make any further major offseason changes before then.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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