The Washington Capitals were among the winners of the 2016 NHL Draft Weekend, but it might be because of one simple trade. The Capitals acquired centre Lars Eller from the Montréal Canadiens in exchange for two second-round picks in 2017 and 2018.
With this trade, the Capitals added even more depth to their arsenal of centres, and filled that void that they have on the third line.
A Better Bottom-Six
General Manager Brian MacLellan has emphasized the need for Washingotn to upgrade their bottom-six, and they feel that they’ve done that by acquiring Eller.
“We identified Lars probably a year ago,” MacLellan told the Washington Post. “We’ve been asking about him. We’re trying to fill a third-line centre with a good two-way guy that cna give us a little offense and play defense. Little PK and probably a little power play, too. We identified him probably over a year ago. He was on our list this year. We kept trying and making calls to see if we could trade for him. And it happened [Friday].”
Starting next season, Eller will have a cap hit of $3.5 million, which is not the worst given his numbers. He has scored over 20 points per season since scoring a career-high 30 in 2012-13, and has been incredibly consistent. Not only is he an excellent skater, but he has the ability to jump-start a play and win face-offs. Eller won over 50 percent of his draws, but his face-off percentage is nowhere near Jay Beagle’s 58.1 winning percentage.
Among all third-line centres, Eller stacks up pretty well and proves to be the fit for MacLellan’s need. in fact, with him coming into Washington, the Capitals will likely pass on re-signing Mike Richards, who was one of many Capitals players to fill in the slot of third-line C, along with Beagle and Marcus Johansson.
As you can see, Eller provides solid numbers and can truly be an asset for Washington. He’s a proven two-way forward who is incredibly physical, but can also contribute and produce.
The 27-year-old has scored at least 20 points per season dating back to 2012-13, when he scored a career high 30 points. Last season, Eller put up 26 points (13 G, 13 A) in 79 games with the Canadiens, and proved to be an asset when it came to even-strength production and the penalty kill. His 105 minutes on the PK last season proves his ability on special teams.
This was a steal for the Capitals, as he fills a much-needed void and is an easy fix when it comes to upgrading the bottom-six.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.