The Washington Capitals have cleared some much needed cap space, trading Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas. The Flyers will be retaining 30% of Gudas’ remaining contract, which leaves Washington responsible for just $2.345MM for the 2019-20 season. Niskanen meanwhile has two years left on his deal which carries a $5.75MM cap hit.
This deal has plenty of layers to it, but the most obvious one for the Capitals is how it gives them more operating space this summer. The team is dealing with a very tight cap situation thanks to some big contracts they’ve handed out over the last few seasons, and are carrying a $1.15MM bonus overage as well. With new contracts needed for players like Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky there was always someone that would be a cap casualty. If it had to happen, Niskanen was perhaps the most obvious choice given the acquisition of Nick Jensen last season and his subsequent extension. The Capitals can move Jensen—or Gudas, if they choose—into the top four for a much lower price tag.
While he may come with a reputation as a player who sometimes crosses the line, Gudas has also been relatively underrated throughout his career. The physical right-shot defenseman is an excellent player in his own end and can effectively get the puck out of the zone. His possession numbers have been strong for years, and he has tallied more than 20 points three times in his career despite never seeing consistent powerplay time. While he may not be as experienced or as effective as a healthy Niskanen, he’s certainly not just a throw in for the Capitals.
For the Flyers though, a move like this is to get an experienced reliable veteran to help guide their young blue line over the next two seasons. Niskanen has averaged more than 20 minutes a night for the last seven seasons and has taken on all kinds of different roles throughout his career. Sometimes a powerplay quarterback, sometimes a shutdown defender, the 32-year old will come to Philadelphia with something to prove after a down season. Niskanen recorded just 25 points in 80 games, his lowest total since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Flyers will hope that’s not the first sign of a rapid decline, as he’ll likely be asked to play a huge role for them in 2019-20.