WASHINGTON, D.C. (WDVM) – The Washington Capitals needed cap space, and on Wednesday, of last week, Capitals senior vice president and general manager, Brian MacLellan, started to clear it putting bottom-six winger, Richard Pánik, on waivers. Pánik cleared and was assigned to the taxi squad, which, by waiver rule, only cleared $1.075 million of his $2.75 million total cap hit.
Then on Sunday, the Capitals traded defenseman, Jonas Seigenthaler, to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick. The trade cleared an additional $800,000 which further suggested that Washington was gearing up to make a move.
That move would come on Monday. As the 3 p.m. deadline came to pass, the Capitals announced that they had acquired forward Michael Raffl from the Philadelphia Flyers for a 5th round pick, but that move would not even make headlines as moments later the news broke that Washington had traded Jakub Vrána, Pánik, and a 2021 first round pick and a 2022 second round pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Anthony Mantha.
“We’ve really liked Anthony for quite a while now,” said MacLellan. “I like a lot of the attributes – the size, the skill, the shot, the scoring ability – he’s a really good skater for his size. It’s a player that we’ve liked and talked a lot about in our room and we had a chance to acquire him and we went out and got him.”
Vrána, a 2014 first-round draft pick for the Caps, and the centerpiece of this trade, is quite popular among fans, and was a huge piece in the Caps 2018 Stanley Cup run. Last season he scored a career-high 25 goals through 69 games, and has 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) through 39 games so far this season.
“He’s a good young player,” said MacLellan of Vrána. “He’s a nice person. Highly skilled. Great speed.”
Vrána, 25, had seen his playing time cut back in recent weeks, and was a healthy scratch for two games.
“Part of it was, I think, Jakub’s a little frustrated with where he’s at here within the organization. Probably wants more ice time, wants a little more responsibility. There was a tug and war between coaching staff and staffs that had had him and the way he was playing, so I think we had a frustrated player and so we tried to move on from that.”
The other part is that Vrána becomes an restricted free agent this summer and signing Mantha gives the Capitals some cost certainty knowing that he is signed through the 2023-24 season with a $5.7 million AAV.
Mantha, 26, from Longueuil, Quebec, was a 2013 first-round draft pick for Detroit and has 21 points (11g, 10a) through 42 games with the Red Wings this season.