The Washington Capitals trade Lars Eller to the Colorado Avalanche


ANAHEIM, Calif. — Already in the midst of a sellout with the NHL trade deadline looming, the Washington Capitals made another move Wednesday, trading center Lars Eller to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2025 second-round pick.

Or 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 on Tuesday dealt defenseman Erik Gustaffson to the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward Marcus Johansson to the Minnesota Wild. All of these 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 in the last week in rebuilding the team’s defensive personnel and adding future draft capital.

The Capitals received three picks in the deal for Orlov and Hathaway, including a 2023 first-round pick, which MacLellan flipped in the deal with the Maple Leafs, sending that pick and Gustaffson in exchange for 22-year-old defenseman Rasmus Sandin. Later in the evening, the Capitals further bolstered their blue line by re-signing defenseman Nick Jensen to a three-year deal.

The Capitals, who will retain 31 percent of Eller’s salary, have stored picks in their three deals — they still own a 2025 second-rounder and 2024 third-rounder in the deal for Orlov and Hathaway, and acquired Minnesota’s 2024 third-round pick 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 an ability to score timely goals in the postseason. Eller, 33, is versatile at the bottom of the 6-point line to play on the penalty kill — and he’s affordable, with just one year left on his $3.5 million cap hit contract.

A former first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2007, Eller had established himself as a respected leader in the Capitals locker room during his tenure in Washington. He was a key contributor during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run in 2018, scoring arguably the greatest goal in Capitals history, the game-winner late in Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights to clinch the team’s first Stanley Cup title.

But injuries and health issues mounted in recent years as his production had declined, including this season; Eller has scored seven goals and nine assists through his first 60 games. He has scored just one goal in 30 games, and none in the last 26.

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

Sandin joined the team for its optional skate Wednesday morning, working overtime with assistant coaches after most of the players had left the ice. It was not immediately clear whether Sandin will 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 when he came off the ice. One of the only players he is familiar with is veteran Nicklas Backstrom, who also hails from Sandin’s native Sweden.

“There are a lot of new faces, but I like it. It’s a lot of fun meeting new people, Sandin said. “Obviously you want to prove yourself and earn the role you want. It’s not just about coming here and getting the role 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 deadline. But for now, the acquisition of Sandin and the expansion of Jensen provide stability for the future.

“It’s been a tough time here the last week with our team, losing guys, brothers in their locker room,” Jensen said. “It’s hard to be happy with things happening, but at the same time I’m excited to be here. I am excited to stay. I am excited about what the future holds for us.”

Even as his name swirled with trade speculation, Eller had said last week that he was focused on remaining professional and helping the Capitals get 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 overhaul.

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

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