The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings have made the biggest trade of deadline day. The Capitals have acquired Anthony Mantha in exchange for Richard Panik, Jakub Vrana, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick.
The Red Wings had been rumored for the last few weeks to be listening on players like Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, but no one was expected such a huge package to be coming back. In Vrana, Detroit GM Steve Yzerman has landed a player that has produced more offense (on a per-game basis) than Mantha so far in his career, with 76 goals and 157 points in 284 games.
Lately, Vrana found himself in the coach’s doghouse, even being made a healthy scratch at times. His game is inconsistent, but he still has 11 goals and 25 points in the 39 games he has played this season. That’s still more than Mantha’s 21 points in 42 games, though obviously, the Capitals believe the big winger will fit their lineup better.
If you’re thinking “but the Capitals also gave up a lot more,” you’re not wrong. Part of the draft capital the team gave up is because of Panik though, who Washington wanted to get off the books. Panik is signed through the 2022-23 season at a $2.75MM cap hit but had played himself right out of the lineup and cleared waivers recently. As Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic points out, that likely accounts for one of the picks in the deal.
Of course, Panik isn’t likely to be just a taxi squad player for the Red Wings, who are still deep in a rebuild. It wasn’t so long ago that Panik was a 14-goal scorer for the Arizona Coyotes, and if he can find some production with an increased role in Detroit perhaps they can flip him too down the line. Even if they don’t, Vrana and two high picks is a huge haul.
Mantha, 26, is a tantalizing package of size and skill, but there’s no guarantee he ever puts it all together. The Capitals obviously believe in the 6’5″ forward, and perhaps for good reason. Even in Detroit where he has been surrounded by poor talent, Mantha has still averaged 25 goals over every 82 games and puts up very strong possession numbers relative to his teammates. Perhaps when he gets into a system with All-Stars and Stanley Cup champions those offensive numbers will explode.
It’s important to also remember that the Capitals believe their picks will be near the end of each round, but right now they aren’t running away with the East Division. In fact, Washington is tied with the New York Islanders for first place and just two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While they are pretty much locked into a playoff spot, there’s certainly no guarantee they make a deep run.
Kevin Weekes of NHL Network was first to break the deal.
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