The Kings will pay 50 percent of Hagelin’s remaining salary this season, according to a person familiar with the terms of the deal, and retain half his cap hit as well. If Washington reaches the Eastern Conference finals and Hagelin plays in at least 50 percent of the games, then the 2020 sixth-round pick will go to Los Angeles. With Hagelin’s $1.875 million cap figure now added, the Capitals have roughly $100,000 in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, and the maximum of 23 players, so another addition before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline would require a corresponding move.
The Capitals are well acquainted with Hagelin from many playoff battles when he played for the New York Rangers and then won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. The 30-year-old Swedish winger has struggled this season with just two goals and six assists in 38 games — he was traded from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles in November — but he has a history of postseason success.
During the Penguins’ 2016 Stanley Cup run, he finished with six goals and 10 assists in 24 games, and he can bring quickness and scoring depth to Washington’s third or fourth line. Hagelin can also kill penalties — he averaged 2:32 shorthanded time per game for Pittsburgh last season. Hagelin is expected to join the Capitals at practice in Buffalo on Friday before making his debut against the Sabres on Saturday.
“He’s a player that, for us in particular, adds speed and adds forward depth, and penalty-killing is something that we’ve been trying to improve all year,” Coach Todd Reirden said. “Those are huge things we feel we’ve added with this player. The style of play we have is different than the style he’s been playing in Los Angeles systematically, so we feel that this will allow him to use his speed a little bit more and be a factor that way, which we think is really important in the Eastern Conference.”
The Capitals prepared for this move Wednesday, when the team waived forward Devante Smith-Pelly to clear his $1 million salary cap hit. Washington initially intended to waive forward Dmitrij Jaskin, even keeping him off the ice for practice in Toronto, but then the organization changed course by noon, the deadline to place a player on waivers. Smith-Pelly and Jaskin have nearly identical cap hits. Smith-Pelly cleared waivers on Thursday, at which point the Capitals sent him down to their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey.
Smith-Pelly was a playoff star for Washington in its run to the Stanley Cup, scoring seven goals, which equaled his regular-season total. But he failed to meet certain conditioning standards when training camp opened, and he has just four goals and four assists through 54 games. He hadn’t scored a goal in 33 games. Because he cleared waivers and is still with the organization, he could be back on the roster for the postseason, when there’s no salary cap.
“He has to get his game back to where it was at last year in playoff time, and he’s someone who’s going to have to find that down in Hershey now,” Reirden said. “That’s the challenge for him now, and that was the message that was delivered to him.”
Adding Hagelin checks off the one thing General Manager Brian MacLellan said was on his wish list earlier this month. The Capitals still have time to tinker before Monday’s trade deadline, but MacLellan has said that he is happy with the team’s depth on the blue line. Though Washington is the worst faceoff team in the league, MacLellan rejected the idea of acquiring a faceoff specialist unless he was a good fit in the lineup otherwise.
While the Capitals may have been open to moving 24-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky earlier in the season, he has been playing better, flashing more of the skill and speed that made him a first-round pick in 2013. Burakovsky has seven goals and 10 assists through 54 games, and though he is a restricted free agent who would require a $3.25 million qualifying offer, it seems Washington is now more likely to keep him than deal him.
As for Jaskin, who was told he was going to be waived on Wednesday and then wasn’t, he skated with the Capitals on Thursday morning, though he won’t be in the team’s lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has played better than his point production (two goals and six assists) would indicate, but Hagelin’s addition likely means even fewer opportunities for Jaskin. Considering he was nearly moved Wednesday, he acknowledged that his future is dicey until Monday.
“Who knows? I guess there is nothing I can do about it or at the present right now,” he said. “I’ll try to do my best to stay here. I really like it here. I think if I’ll play good, then I’ll deserve more time in a good spot. So I’m not worried about that.”
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