The Washington Capitals announced tonight that they’ve made former 25-goal scorer Anthony Mantha a healthy scratch for their game against the Calgary Flames. The forward has struggled with the Capitals since coming over from the Detroit Red Wings in an ill-fated 2021 trade for Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik.
Less than a decade ago, the 29-year-old looked like he would blossom into a perennial 30-goal threat as he posted 25 goals in 67 games during the 2018-19 season. He continued his torrid pace in 2019-20 posting 38 points in 43 games during an injury-marred campaign.
The following offseason the Red Wings signed Mantha to a four-year extension with a $5.7MM cap hit that began to look like a misfire almost immediately. Mantha returned from injury and was never able to get back to the level of play he enjoyed from 2017-2019 as he registered just 11 goals and 10 assists in 42 games before he was dealt to Washington at the NHL trade deadline.
After the move to D.C. Mantha posted slightly improved offensive numbers with 13 goals and 18 assists in his first 51 games as a member of the Capitals. However, last season his point totals fell off a cliff as he had just 11 goals and 27 points in 67 games.
Mantha’s struggles led to speculation that he could be bought out this past June, however, the Capitals elected to keep the forward for the final season of his contract and put him on the trade block to see if they could find him a change of scenery. Nothing materialized on the trade front, which isn’t shocking given how difficult it was to move salary this summer.
The healthy scratch of Mantha early in the season is interesting for several reasons. It shows that the Capitals’ new head coach Spencer Carbery isn’t afraid to sit veterans to ice the best lineup possible, but it also serves as a reminder that Mantha is unlikely to remain in Washington beyond this season. Teams usually like to spend ten games assessing what they have before they decide on a direction for the season but given what has transpired with him over the last year in Washington it appears the Capitals have already made up their mind on the direction to take with Mantha’s future.