The Washington Capitals made a decision to sell at the trade deadline this season, but they are still in the playoff race and also decided to sign and acquire some players at the same time. The roster has started to take shape for next season, but there are some unresolved contracts and unknowns still left on the board. No team returns with the exact same roster as the season prior, so let’s take a look at three Capitals who won’t be back next season.
The Capitals have dragged this out long enough. Anthony Mantha was once a top-line player in Detroit until the trade that brought him over. Washington thought they were getting that player, but in fact, got a very inconsistent middle-six forward at best who has not fit in on the Capitals. A change of scenery is very much needed and they can accommodate that with either a buyout before the final year of his contract or a cap dump to another team.
The Capitals aren’t looking to rebuild while Alex Ovechkin is still on the team, which means they are going to continue the quick retool to try and get back in playoff contention next season. Their roster is fairly full of talent, especially after already extending Sonny Milano and Dylan Strome. Mantha has one goal and three points in the last 18 games and just recently snapped a 12-game pointless drought.
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He has a cap hit of $5.7 million average annual value (AAV) for one more year and instead of playing in the top-six has actually been a healthy scratch and played on the fourth line at times. With his lack of production and large cap hit, the Capitals have to do something about it in the offseason and end this long drawn-out saga.
Craig Smith was a cap dump at the trade deadline so that the Boston Bruins could afford to bring in Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway. A once productive middle-six winger has fallen very hard this season and has gone from a career average of nearly 15 minutes of time on ice per game to under 10:30. He has produced offence like a fourth liner, and even at a much cheaper cap hit, his drop-off isn’t encouraging for the Capitals to warrant keeping around (from “Craig Smith is focused on finding a role with Capitals: ‘I want to prove myself’”, The Athletic, Feb. 28, 2023).
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