The Flyers acquired Matt Niskanen from the Capitals for Radko Gudas on Friday in a one-for-one swap of defencemen that upgrades Philadelphia’s blue line offence and gives Washington much needed salary-cap space.
Niskanen gives the Flyers an offensive-minded, right-handed shot who can also help on the power play. Philadelphia is retaining 30% of Gudas’ $3.35 million cap hit, which means Washington saves $3.405 million going into an off-season with several players in need of new contracts.
“We feel this move provides us with financial flexibility as we look for additional ways to strengthen our team,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “In addition, we are pleased to welcome Radko to our organization. Radko is a good defensive defenceman that plays a competitive, physical game.”
Niskanen was a key piece of the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup run. He struggled for about half of this past season and finished with 25 points on eight goals and 17 assists.
“I would say the first 50 games overall not as good as I have played in the past,” Niskanen said on locker cleanout day. “Certainly better later than early in the year. I think I played closer to my usual level the later the season went on. That was when I was most competitive and best execution and all that good stuff. I was my best later in the year, closer to playoffs and in the playoffs.”
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The 32-year-old has two years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. The Capitals made the playoffs in all five seasons since Niskanen signed with them.
“We would like to thank Matt for all of his contributions to our organization for the past five seasons,” MacLellan said. “Matt is a consummate professional and was a big part of our success. We wish him and his family all the best moving forward.”
Trading Niskanen is the latest part of MacLellan’s defensive makeover after he acquired Nick Jensen from Detroit for Madison Bowey in February. The cap-crunched Capitals need to sign one restricted free agent winger, Jakub Vrana, to a new deal, have a decision to make on Andre Burakovsky, another, and have holes to fill with wingers Carl Hagelin, Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly set to become unrestricted free agents.
It’s the first significant move of the NHL off-season after the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup and succeeded the Capitals as reigning champions.