As long as Alexander Ovechkin is with the club, the Washington Capitals will aim to contend for a Stanley Cup. One of the many injuries they have dealt with this season has been to defenseman John Carlson. The 33-year-old blueliner has been on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) after being struck in the face with a puck during the contest versus the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 23. It is anticipated he will not be able to return for a few more months – possibly by the end of the regular season. They have suffered many injuries to core members throughout the year. The organization will be adding players by the March 3 trade deadline and will aim to include a defenceman in their acquisitions. Let’s take a look at some teams that have defensemen they may inquire about adding by the deadline.
Joel Edmundson will have another year of term on his current deal following the 2022-23 season with a cap hit of $3.5 million this year and in 2023-24. Capitals defensemen Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson, and Matt Irwin will be unrestricted free agents (UFA), while Alexander Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary will be restricted free agents (RFA) following the season. The Canadiens’ blueliner would give them another player at the position besides Carlson under contract for next year. He has a modified no-trade clause in his deal in which he submits a 10-team no-trade clause to their front office.
At 29 years of age, Edmundson is a player in his prime that is capable of helping a playoff team. He was with the St. Louis Blues 2019 Stanley Cup-winning club and the Canadiens when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. His postseason experience will benefit a contending team like the Capitals, who are aiming to win their second championship in five years.
One of the concerns with acquiring Edmundson is what the Canadiens are reportedly asking for in return. They are rebuilding, looking for future draft picks and prospects.
“The best assets at this deadline are mostly going to be asking for at least a first-round pick in return,” NHL Insider Chris Johnston said previously on TSN’s Insider Trading. “That goes for the high-profile forwards, but also a couple of defencemen. I think that, if the Montreal Canadiens are to move Joel Edmundson at this deadline, you’re looking at a 1st-round pick-plus. Same in Columbus with Vladislav Gavrikov.”
Capitals general manager (GM) Brian MacLellan has not been reluctant in previous years to trade away draft picks, and there is a good chance he will offer future picks in a deal by the March 3 deadline. Another NHL insider Pierre LeBrun mentioned the following about the Canadiens defenseman, “Joel Edmundson, a shutdown defenceman, leadership guy, has Stanley Cup pedigree. The Habs aren’t looking to move him, by the way, but they’re obviously willing to listen, given where they are in their retooling, they’re willing to listen on most of the veterans.”
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Marco D’Amico of Montreal Hockey Now wrote other teams may be willing to agree to the Canadiens’ asking price for Edmundson given that he will be with a team for potentially two playoff runs based on his contract. Last season, they acquired a 2023 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-round pick, and prospect Ty Smilanic from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defenseman Ben Chiarot. They were looking to trade him last season as he was an unrestricted free agent following 2021-22 and still received multiple draft picks and a prospect.
Taking into account that they will listen to offers but are not actively looking to move Edmundson, GM MacLellan will need to part with a first-round pick. A deal could get done if he offers a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 third-round pick, and Connor McMichael for Edmundson. If the Capitals can add the Canadiens’ blueliner by the trade deadline, it will increase their depth at the position further, especially if Carlson can return by the start of the postseason. With one more year left on his deal, they would have Carlson and Edmundson to lead their defense heading into 2023-24.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Gavrikov is 27 years old and entering the last year of his contract. He has an average annual value (AAV) of $2.8 million, which is more affordable than Edmundson’s yearly earnings. From Sportsnet’s 32 Thoughts on Jan. 21, Jeff Marek mentioned the Blue Jackets’ asking price will be substantial for the defenseman and mentioned their trade of David Savard at the 2021 deadline, in which they received a 2021 first-round draft pick and a third-round selection in 2022 from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Marek said, “I do believe that Columbus’ preference would have been to re-sign the talented defenseman. I don’t think that’s going to be able to happen. $2.8 (million) is the AAV (average annual value) on the package there for Gavrikov, and just about any contending team can slide that into their payroll. I think Columbus is looking for a package along the lines of a David Savard deal.” The blueliner does not have any trade clauses with his current contract, unlike other players that have a good chance of being dealt by the deadline.
Gavrikov, like Edmundson, is another top-four defenseman that could capitalize in a top-pairing role with the Capitals while Carlson is working his way back from his injury. Despite having difficulty reaching a contract extension with the Yaroslavl, Russia native, the Blue Jackets could get a first-round pick in return for him, which is valuable, particularly for a club that is rebuilding. They are in the mix for the number one overall draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, currently. In a deep draft class, they have an opportunity to finish with a top-three first-round selection. They are looking to get back a mid to late first-round pick in a deal for the 27-year-old blueliner.
In a potential trade, the Capitals would receive Gavrikov in exchange for their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 third-round pick. If they can agree to a new contract with him, they will have another top defenseman besides Carlson under contract for next season. He has stepped up in his current role this year as he is filling in for injured defenseman Zach Werenski on the Blue Jackets’ top defensive pair. He provides a steady presence on the blueline that playoff-bound teams such as the Capitals will covet in the postseason.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are in a position to contend for the playoffs this year but have been rumored to trade Matt Roy or Sean Walker by the March 3 deadline. The 27-year-old Roy has a $3.15 average annual value (AAV) this year and in 2023-24 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. GM Rob Blake may be looking to free up cap space by trading either one of them by the deadline. The Capitals are a team that should take an interest in either player. Roy has a higher total of shots blocked than any of their blueliners, according to Natural Stat Trick.
van Riemsdyk is near his total in blocked shots, but adding another defenseman, who specializes in that part of the game, will make them even better defensively. Walker, 28, has a cheaper average annual value of $2.65 million this year and next year. The Capitals could trade Lars Eller as part of a deal involving Roy or Walker to help improve their depth at center behind Anze Kopitar and Philip Danault. A trade would involve the Capitals trading Eller, and a 2023 second-round draft pick to the Kings for Roy, or Walker and a 2024 second-round draft pick.
The Capitals are aiming to contend for a championship as long as Ovechkin is a member of the club. Injuries have been an issue for them this year, and that is a concern going forward, particularly for one of the oldest rosters in the league. Carlson’s progression in working his way back from his injury could dictate how much GM MacLellan prioritizes adding to the defensive position. However, the club does not have any of their defensemen besides their injured star under contract beyond this season. Adding a defenseman with an extra year remaining on their current deal should be appealing to the Capitals’ GM. They will need as much depth as they can get with key players dealing with injuries throughout the year. They could receive a boost at the end of the season with Carlson’s return and any acquisitions they make at the position by the trade deadline.