The Washington Capitals biggest need right now is a top 4 defenseman. The cream of the unrestricted free agency crop is current Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen. Let’s take a look at Niskanen.
Why Matt Niskanen Would Be A Good Fit For The Washington Capitals
- Matt Niskanen scored a career high 46 points (10 goals, 36 assists) during the 2013-2014 regular season. Due to injuries to Kris Letang and Paul Martin, Niskanen had to accept a ton of responsibility and he responded by having the best season of his career.
- Of Niskanen’s 46 points, 31 of those (seven goals, 24 assists) came at even strength (five on five). He was extremely good at even strength, arguably being the best Penguins defenseman at even strength. The Capitals’ struggles at even strength are well documented. Niskanen would help fix that.
- He has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time a night in each of the past two seasons. Ice time is a fairly good indicator of if a defenseman can handle a top 4 defenseman role, so Niskanen definitely passes that test.
- He’s relatively young at 27 years old. This suggests that he is just entering his prime and could continue to improve.
Why Matt Niskanen Wouldn’t Be A Good Fit For The Washington Capitals
- Matt Niskanen’s 46 points during the regular season were a career high. Here are his point totals from his previous three seasons:
- 2012-2013: 14 points in 40 games
- 2011-2012: 21 points in 75 games
- 2010-2011: 10 points in 63 games
That’s a little concerning. Was this year an example of what is to come, or was this year an example of a player having a contract year?
- Even though Matt Niskanen was arguably the best Penguins defenseman at even strength, he didn’t face very good competition. That shows that he’s probably not capable of being a top pairing defenseman, which is what I think the Washington Capitals need. I believe they need either a top 2 defenseman to pair with John Carlson, or a stay at home defenseman to pair with Mike Green, and once Green’s gone, Dmitry Orlov. I don’t think Niskanen is a clear fit in either of those roles.
While Matt Niskanen isn’t a perfect fit for the Capitals, I think the Capitals should explore signing him because there aren’t many other good options available via free agency. Niskanen moves the puck well and plays well at even strength. As long as the AAV of the deal is around $3,000,000 to $4,500,000, I think that Niskanen would be a nice addition to the Washington Capitals. I’d pair him with John Carlson, allowing Karl Alzner and Mike Green, who both need each other IMO, to be a second pairing.