Rasmus Sandin had a whirlwind 2022-23 season. He started the year as a bottom pairing (and sometimes extra) defenseman with the Toronto Maple Leafs and finished the campaign with the Washington Capitals, playing in the top four and averaging nearly 23 minutes of ice time.
Sandin was the first example of the Caps prioritizing the acquisition of younger players over more veteran, rental-type additions when he was brought in from the Leafs for a first-round pick and Erik Gustafsson. The 23-year-old smooth-skating blueliner got into 19 total games with the team and recorded an impressive 15 points (3g, 12a).
Now, after having time to settle, Sandin says he can see himself staying in DC for the long term. He has one year remaining on his contract ($1.4 million AAV) before becoming a restricted free agent.
“I love the city. It feels like it has everything a player wants,” Sandin told Swedish NHL.com’s Peter Ekholm and as translated by Google Translate. “The organization is awesome, the teammates are awesome, and the fans are really good. Everything was just fantastic there. I can definitely see myself there for a long time to come.”
A large reason why Sandin was able to adjust to his new team and new city so quickly was the presence of legendary Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom acted as Sandin’s personal icebreaker on a team where he had no other familiar faces to help guide him.
That was evidenced on-ice by Sandin’s historic production in his first several games with the Caps and off the ice as it took him just five games to pick up on some of the unique quirks around the team like “Red” being shouted during the national anthem at Capital One Arena.
“For me personally, when I came to Washington, he was the only one I knew and I barely knew him,” Sandin said. “But, he was the one I was somewhat familiar with. He introduced me to everyone on my first day. He meant a lot to me.”
Backstrom had a rough year from a personal standpoint, missing a slew of games as he recovered from hip resurfacing surgery and never really looking up to speed even after returning. Sandin has faith that number 19 can turn it all around this upcoming season.
“I absolutely believe he can have a good season,” Sandin said. “Last season was of course tough for him, with the surgery and all. Everyone knows how good Nick is. He played me to a few chances last year that I could have scored on and I thought ‘not a chance he sees me here’, and then he puts a great backhand pass through two guys and you basically get an open goal. He will be very important.”
Sandin started his career as a Caps player under head coach Peter Laviolette but will now continue it under a more familiar face in Spencer Carbery. Carbery was an assistant coach in Toronto for the past two seasons, Sandin’s first two full years in the NHL.
“The times I worked with Carbs in Toronto were during power play meetings and such,” Sandin said. “He was very good at getting the best out of each individual and working as a unit. So, I think [his hiring] will be very good for us.”
Under Laviolette last season, the Caps missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign and clinched their worst full, 82-game season in 16 years. With Carbery not at the helm, Sandin believes the Caps can make a return to the postseason.
Sandin only got into five total playoff games with Toronto and given the Leafs’ well-known postseason troubles, has never been part of a series-winning team.
“I think we have good qualities in the dressing room,” Sandin said. “The people we have in the dressing room mean a lot to us. The players here are really, really good. We have to have a bit of luck, a bit of faith, and I really think we’ll make the playoffs this year.”
This past summer, Sandin skated with Team Sweden at the World Championships. The Caps received a bit of a scare when Sandin was labeled by a hard, knee-on-knee hit from Team USA’s Michael Eyssimont and hobbled to the Swedish locker room.
Sandin did not return to that game and then limped off the ice at Sweden’s next practice, ending his tournament prematurely. Luckily, the damage done was not serious and Sandin is already back in DC, skating in the team’s informal practices before Training Camp opens.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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