The Washington Capitals agreed to a four-year contract worth around $10 million with forward Richard Panik, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Sunday night. The team can’t officially sign Panik until noon Monday, when NHL free agency begins.
Panik addresses the Capitals’ most pressing need in the lineup: third-line right wing. He’s expected to slot in with center Lars Eller and left wing Carl Hagelin there.
Pending unrestricted free agent forward Brett Connolly, who scored a career-high 22 goals while mostly playing to Eller’s right this past season, reportedly agreed to a four-year contract with the Florida Panthers.
His salary cap hit is expected to be $3.5 million, according to the Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, which is $1 million more than what Washington reportedly agreed to with Panik. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said Saturday that he suspected the team was “priced out” on Connolly.
Adding Panik follows Washington trading 24-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday for second- and third-round picks in the 2020 draft. The Capitals were on the hook for a $3.25 million qualifying offer to Burakovsky, a restricted free agent who had 12 goals and 13 assists in each of the past two seasons.
Panik will carry a cheaper salary cap hit on his longer deal; the 28-year-old Slovak had 14 goals and 19 assists in 75 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. He averaged 16:37 and logged 1:12 per game on the penalty kill, where he could have a role for Washington.
In addition to bringing in Panik, when free agency officially opens the Capitals could add depth scoring for the fourth line to rebuild their bottom-six forward corps. That group struggled as the Capitals lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs.