The Capitals and Flyers are swapping veteran defensemen, with Matt Niskanen headed to Philadelphia and Radko Gudas coming to Washington.
The deal, announced Friday, gives Philadelphia a Stanley Cup winner with ample playoff experience while providing blueline toughness — and salary cap relief — for the Capitals.
Gudas, 29, is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $3.35 million next season, but the Flyers will cover 30 percent of that total. Niskanen, 32, has two seasons left on his deal at $5.75 million annually.
That difference will give the Capitals more payroll flexibility this offseason as they determine whether to try and bring back the likes of Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky or pursue outside free agents or trades.
Niskanen was a critical building block toward Washington winning its first Stanley Cup title in 2017-18, though his production slipped this past season. He tallied 25 points in 80 games after posting 29 in just 68 regular-season games the year before.
Thank you, Nisky. For everything. pic.twitter.com/jU8bfhb74N
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 14, 2019
Niskanen told Philadelphia media on a conference call Friday that he was not shocked by “a little surprised” by the move.
“I knew this is the time of year when these things can happen and I knew what kind of situation Washington was in, so I knew there was a possibility,” he said.
Asked about his new team, he added: “I’ve played against these guys, the core of them, for quite a while now in a rivalry situation, whether it be with Pittsburgh or Washington. A couple playoff series. Their team has changed since I’ve been in the Metro division. Over the last few years they’ve gotten younger.
“I like the team. They have dangerous people, they’ve added young players with a lot of promise, hard to play against. I know they missed the playoffs last year, but I remember saying to a teammate, they should be doing better than they are. … They’re on the upswing I think. It was hard to play against the Flyers. Good organization, they play the game hard, they play to win. Lot of promise there. I’m excited about that.”
Gudas will provide a different look on the Capitals’ blueline. He has ranked among the league leaders in penalty minutes throughout his career, though he racked up only 63 this season, and has been suspended multiple times by the NHL — most notably a 10-game ban in 2017 for slashing Mathieu Perreault.