The Washington Capitals are a team to keep an eye on leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline. The Capitals currently have a number of injured players on the shelve, including Tom Wilson and Niklas Backstrom. When these veterans are ready to return to the lineup, the Capitals are expected to make a couple of trades to not only create more financial flexibility but also to balance out their lineup.
Insert struggling forward Anthony Mantha. The 28-year-old is emerging as a prime trade candidate and could very well be moved before the trade deadline this season. Here’s three potential destinations should Mantha be moved by the Capitals:
The Vancouver Canucks are open for business and looking to trade just about anyone not named Elias Pettersson. Hockey insider Elliotte Friedman recently linked the Canucks and Capitals together and felt a Mantha for Brock Boeser swap could be in the cards for both teams.
Both players are underperforming to their standards. Boeser sits with only four goals and 16 points in 23 games, meanwhile Mantha has recorded eight goals and 19 points in 34 games. Boeser is three years younger than the Caps forward and could help Washington fill the gap on right-wing left by Connor Brown, who went down with injury earlier this season.
This would be an interesting trade from the Canucks perspective as they would be re-tooling with an older forward, however Mantha’s contract is likely the appealing part for Vancouver management. His $5.7 million annual salary is off the books after next season, compared to Boeser who has two seasons left on his deal. So if you total it up, the Canucks would potentially gain just about $1 million in cap flexibility in 2023-24 and then be free of Mantha’s $5.7 million at the beginning of the 2024-25 season.
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Capitals fans on the other hand are probably screaming at management to make this move. Boeser, being younger, carries more upside and could easily revitalize his career in Washington.
The Montreal Canadiens are expected to be active before the trade deadline and are another team looking to re-tool on the fly. The Canadiens have a number of forwards who could interest the Capitals and I wonder if a Mantha for Christian Dvorak trade would be something both sides would consider.
With the uncertainty of Backstrom’s return and the outlook on his career, the Capitals are thin down the middle. Adding a center like Dvorak, who is signed through the 2024-25 season at $4.45 million annually, could be something that fits nicely in Washington.
Dvorak is also underperforming this season, collecting only 14 points in his first 32 games in 2022-23. He hasn’t quite worked out as expected after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes two seasons ago. A change of scenery could do wonders for his game and a team like the Capitals could be the perfect spot to hit reset on his young career.
Mantha on the other hand would give the Canadiens a power forward for the left side of their lineup. He’d compliment their group nicely and considering his contract only runs through next season, if it doesn’t work out, Canadiens management could easily cut ties and decide not to re-sign him.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are a team I could see being active before the trade deadline this season as they continue to impress in the Western Conference. The Kings have recorded a 18-12-5 record to this point in the season and sit second in the Pacific division with 41 points. Adding a power forward like Mantha could improve their lineup and give themselves a more balanced attack up front heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Mantha is a proven sniper who can score in many different ways. It hasn’t been as easy for him to contribute offensively since joining the Capitals, however in the right situation he could easily get back to scoring 25 goals like he did as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Kings are going to be in the market for help on their wings and Mantha is certainly a candidate for the job. He could help their second-line production and their second power-play unit and give the team a bigger body up front, as the Kings could use some more size.
Los Angeles also has a surplus of defensemen, especially on the right side who could interest Capitals’ management. With Washington only having John Carlson signed for next season on their blue line, perhaps the team has some interest in adding either Sean Walker or Matt Roy from the Kings.
Capitals fans, expect to hear Mantha’s name out there before the trade deadline as management is likely going to troll the waters to see what kind of value he holds on the market. The Kings, Canadiens and Canucks are all teams who likely have interest and it will be fun to watch if something big materializes in early 2023.