Radko Gudas recently traded orange for red. The defenseman who spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning and four seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers will now call the Washington Capitals home. What can the franchise – and the fans – expect from the physical, penalty-prone and combative Czechoslovakian?
Is Orange the New Red?
Gudas has always been a goon. To put it mildly: the guy has been in a lot of fights. He has made a lot of giant hits – including 255 in 77 games last season to finish tenth across the league in that category. The current crop of Capitals has not been immune. To throw it back to the time Gudas donned blue for the Bolts, most fans will remember when he engaged with Caps enforcer, Tom Wilson.
After a driving play to the net resulted in goalie Ben Bishop on the ice, Gudas and Wilson traded fists during an Eastern Conference rivalry game in November 2014. Seeing as in-team fighting is discouraged, the two heavyweights now must work together. Can the two work in tandem to divide enforcing duties?
Gudas also found himself in altercations with former Capitals Andre Burakovsky and Devante Smith-Pelly. First there was Burakovsky. After a player pileup behind the net ensued after Dmitry Orlov was checked head first into the boards, Burakovsky and Gudas exchanged nice words and pleasantries about the dangerous hit. At the time, Gudas had survived 64 professional fights.
Then there was DSP. After a crushing hit to then-teammate Nic Dowd, Smith-Pelly stepped in to send a message in front of his home crowd. In total, Smith-Pelly put up a meager 137 penalty minutes through 395 games played in the NHL while Gudas owns a striking 579 penalty minutes in 416 career games. DSP’s gumption was admirable, but the altercation was not long enough to determine a clear winner. However, we are always rooting for the man in red.
Fate Is a Cruel Mistress
Finally, there was Matt Niskanen. In an ironic twist of fate, Niskanen is the reason Gudas now rocks the red: the two traded teams in an off-season deal to free up cap space for the Capitals. However, in 2017, the Caps faced the Flyers and Matt Niskanen faced Radko Gudas. Their second-period collision resulted in a lower-body injury for the Washington blueliner. The confrontation was one of 66 hits from both teams through 60 minutes.
That same season also featured a 10-game suspension for the new Capital after he slashed former Capital Matheiu Perreault’s head. The suspension was one of four times in his NHL career that the defenseman was forced to take some time off for excessive physicality. In 2015, the 204-pound defender underwent a three-game timeout for an illegal check to the head in December. The following season, Gudas served a six-game suspension for interference with head contact in Oct. 2016. Most recently, the bruiser was rewarded with a two-game ban following a high-sticking incident in Feb. 2019.
Is it too late to take the trade back?
Surprisingly, there are probably many supporters of the trade. That includes Capitals general manager, Brian MacLellan, who made this assertion about the move: “We like Radko. He’s a competitive guy. We feel he’s a good defensive defenseman. We liked him on the penalty kill, he brings a physical element to our team that we feel we need. He’s a high-character guy, a good guy in the room, so we’re excited to have him on our team” (6/21/19).
Also surprising is the fact that not all of Gudas’ interactions with his new teammates have resulted in blood or penalties. Several players are probably included in the cheering section along with MacLellan. Gudas is greeted by some familiar faces in Washington, D.C. due to previous participation on the Czech Republic national team.
Defenseman Michal Kempný and forward Jakub Vrána, who have represented their country on the international level since 2008 and 2012 respectively, will welcome their countryman to the Capitals’ roster. Richard Pánik, a Slovak right winger who recently signed a four-year contract with Washington, will help as well. Those established ties can aid the transition from former Flyer to current Capital.
Full Circle of Life
Former Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth and Gudas have an interesting relationship. They are brothers-in-law. As it happens, Gudas and Neuvirth were both Flyers and Czech teammates. During the time they served on the same teams, news broke that Gudas’ sister, Karolina Gudasová, was pregnant with Neuvirth’s first child. The two are now married with two children. We’ll leave it at that.
Thus, the d-man enters the Capitals’ equation with a tangled web of connections and history. There are areas in which Gudas can assist, bolster and excel. If liability becomes an advantage, then we can celebrate. We got over the decade-plus time the recently-retired Brooks Orpik spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. We can welcome Radko Gudas into the Capitals community.