Without much cap space to work with the season, the Washington Capitals didn’t make a trade until the final week before the trade deadline. The reigning Stanley Cup champions retained most their roster from last season and have found success again this season.
Rather than changing the dynamic and makeup of the roster, the Capitals elected to make some smaller moves to fill some holes. They bolstered their defensive depth while adding some secondary scoring and special teams help. Despite flying under the radar, Washington was undoubtedly one of the 2019 Deadline winners.
Two Draft Picks to the Kings for Carl Hagelin – Grade: B
In their first move, the Capitals acquired a familiar face from the Los Angeles Kings in Carl Hagelin. Including the postseason, Hagelin played a total of 582 games with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, two of Washington’s Metropolitan Division rivals. In his career, Hagelin has scored 15 points in 35 playoff games against the Capitals.
The Capitals also managed to get 50 percent of his salary retained by Los Angeles to stay cap compliant. In exchange, they sent the Kings a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 sixth-round selection. Hagelin was a fairly cheap pickup that should improve Washington’s penalty-killing unit that kills off just 78.5 percent of penalties, 23rd in the league.
Beyond his penalty-killing abilities, the Swedish winger is expected to provide a small boost to the team’s bottom-six scoring. He had 27 points in 37 games with Pittsburgh during the 2015-16 campaign and scored 31 points just last season. If Hagelin can regain some of that offensive production, the Capitals are a significantly deeper team and a bigger postseason threat.
The condition for Los Angeles to get the sixth-round pick is a bit complicated. Washington has to win at least two playoff series, meaning the team would need to reach the Eastern Conference Final. Then, Hagelin would have to play in at least half of Washington’s games in any two rounds of this postseason. It’s very possible that the Kings will only get one draft pick out of this deal, making it an even better deal for the Capitals.
Bowey and a Pick to the Red Wings for Jensen and a Pick – Grade: B+
Of the two trades that Washington made this season, the acquisition of Nick Jensen is likely the better of the two. While he’s expected to be on the Capitals’ bottom-four, he ate up nearly 21 minutes of ice time per game in 60 games with the Detroit Red Wings this season, leading the team in total time on ice.
The Minnesota-born blueliner came at a relatively low cost, sending Madison Bowey and a 2020 second-round pick to Detroit while getting back a 2019 fifth-round pick. To make this trade even better, Washington and Jensen agreed to a four-year, $10 million extension after the deal went through. With that, the team’s defensive unit is signed through at least the 2020-21 season with the exception of 38-year-old Brooks Orpik.
A testament to Jensen’s strong two-way play is his 50.6 goals for percentage in five-on-five play with the Red Wings. In his 60 games with Detroit, the team recorded a minus-28 goal differential, but the 28-year-old managed to stay positive at even strength.
Of the 10 defensemen to suit up for Washington this season, Bowey recorded the second-worst Corsi percentage at 45.3 percent, narrowly ahead of Matt Niskanen. For what looks to be a considerable upgrade to the team’s defense, paying just a second-round pick — and even getting another late-round selection in return — feels like a small price to pay.
While Washington was fairly quiet on the trade market all season, the team made the necessary moves to strengthen its weaknesses. The front office is happy with the overall roster after earning the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title last season. Even without a big, splashy move, the Capitals had a very successful trade deadline and are set for another deep postseason run.