This one is extremely painful. However, if you’re trading Ovechkin, why not trade Backstrom too? If 19 wants to stick around for a rebuild, you happily keep him. Backstrom is a franchise player who you can build a team around. If the Capitals are confident they can do a turnaround within three years, he’s a heck of a cornerstone to build a team on.
But if Backstrom doesn’t want to stay, much like Ovi, he’s earned his right to go to a different team. Another reason why trading 19 makes sense is he likely gets you an even better package than Ovechkin. A franchise center under contract for the next three years with a very reasonable cap hit ($6.7 million) is quite valuable.
Which contender makes sense for him? Perhaps no playoff team needs a contender more than the Ottawa Senators. However, we can rule out them out because he’s due $23 million in salary over the next three seasons. The Sens are a budget team, so they’re not doing it unless they clear a ton of money. Calgary would be a good fit, but they’re already committing a ton of money to Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and Sean Monahan.
How about the Nashville Predators? Yes, they have a terrible trade history. But this time around, the Capitals aren’t trading Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat. They’re actually getting talent this time around!
Nashville has to give up a defenseman in this trade. It’s where they have a lot of value. At this point, the Predators likely view Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis untouchable (and rightfully so). Ekholm would give the Capitals a very nice piece for their blue line, which is losing at least one member (and potentially two).
That’s a hefty price for Backstrom, but he’s worth it. The Johansen swap is logical because 19 is better than him and signed long-term. But Ry-Jo isn’t too far behind Backstrom as far as production. The Washington Capitals would have a strong 1-2 punch of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Johansen for the foreseeable future. That’s a pretty nice foundation.