The Washington Post

Caps trade center Eller as sell-off continues

Avalanche sends a pick for man who scored goal that clinched Stanley Cup


anaheim, calif. — Already in the thick of a sell-off with the NHL trade deadline looming, the Washington Capitals made another move Wednesday, trading center Lars Eller to the Colorado Avalanche for a second-round pick in 2025.

Eller becomes the fifth Capitals veteran to be moved before Friday’s deadline. Washington traded defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway to the Boston Bruins last week and dealt defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward Marcus Johansson to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. All of those players were set to become unrestrict­ed free agents at the end of this season.

This marks the first time in Brian Maclellan’s nine-year tenure as general manager that he has been a seller at the deadline, and he has been aggressive over the past week in rebuilding the team’s defensive personnel and adding future draft capital.

The Capitals landed three picks in the deal for Orlov and Hathaway, including a 2023 firstround­er that Maclellan flipped in the trade with the Maple Leafs, sending that selection and Gustafsson in exchange for 22-year-old defenseman Rasmus Sandin. Later in the evening, the Capitals shored up their blue line further by re-signing defenseman Nick Jensen to a three-year deal.

The Capitals, who will retain 31 percent of Eller’s salary, have stockpiled picks in their three deals — they still own a 2024 third-rounder and a 2025 secondroun­der in the deal for Orlov and Hathaway, and they acquired Minnesota’s 2024 third-rounder in the trade for Johansson.

The acquisitio­n of Eller will bolster Colorado’s lineup with a veteran who has deep playoff experience and has shown a knack for timely postseason goals. Eller, 33, is a versatile bottom-six forward adept at playing on the penalty kill — and he is affordable, in the final year of a five-year contract with a $3.5 million cap hit.

A first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2007, Eller

establishe­d himself as a respected leader in the locker room during his tenure in Washington. He was a key contributo­r during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run in 2018 and scored arguably the biggest goal in Capitals history, the game-winner late in Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights to clinch the team’s first championsh­ip.

But injuries and health issues mounted in recent years as his production waned, including this season; Eller has seven goals and nine assists in 60 games. He has scored just one goal in his past 30 games and none in his past 24.

The Eller trade came about an hour before the Capitals were due on the ice for their morning skate ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Sandin joined the team for its optional skate Wednesday morning, getting in extra work with assistant coaches after most players left the ice. It was not immediatel­y clear whether Sandin would

be ready for Wednesday night’s game — he was sorting out immigratio­n and visa issues that came in the wake of Tuesday’s move. He was still meeting his new teammates as he came off the ice. One

of the only players he is familiar with is veteran Nicklas Backstrom, who hails from Sandin’s home country of Sweden.

“It’s a lot of new faces, but I like that. It’s a lot of fun meeting new

people,” Sandin said. “Obviously you want to prove yourself and earn that role that you want. It’s not just about coming here and being given that role that you want. I’m prepared for it.”

Washington’s blue line is still in flux; star John Carlson, who was hit in the head by a puck in December, remains out, and veteran Trevor van Riemsdyk could be moved before Friday’s dead

line. But for now, the acquisitio­n of Sandin and the extension of Jensen offer stability for the future.

“It’s been a tough time here the last week with our team, losing guys, brothers in your locker room,” Jensen said. “It’s hard to be happy with that stuff going on, but at the same time, I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to stick around. I’m excited what the future has in store for us.”

Even as his name swirled in trade speculatio­n, Eller said last week that he was focused on remaining profession­al and helping the Capitals pull out of their midseason slump. He was emotional in describing the loss of Orlov and Hathaway after they became the first chips to fall amid Washington’s roster revamp.

“Emotional goodbyes. . . . It’s not fun, right?” he said after they left, and now, after seven years with the franchise, it is his turn to say goodbye.

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 ?? Grant Halverson/getty IMAGES ?? Respected leader Lars Eller, who had 87 goals and 121 assists in 488 games over his seven seasons with Washington, is bound for Colorado.
Grant Halverson/getty IMAGES Respected leader Lars Eller, who had 87 goals and 121 assists in 488 games over his seven seasons with Washington, is bound for Colorado.

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