Should The Capitals Still Look To Trade Anthony Mantha?

Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Mantha, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports /

Sports can frequently put people in tricky situations. Both on and off the playing surfaces. On the playing surface is fair enough. Put your opponent in a tough spot can benefit and win games. Off of it becomes even more tricky. I believe the Washington Capitals and Anthony Mantha are in one of those tricky spots right now.

We don’t need to go into much detail about the Caps and Mantha. We all know the history there. A guy who came over in a big trade, bigger things were expected of him, he has not really delivered. He has struggled over the last few seasons, probably for multiple reasons, and he has found himself in trade rumors thanks to those struggles.

That’s all fair. Someone has some trouble playing well on your team, it doesn’t seem to be working out for anybody, find a trade and both can just move and and hopefully find a better option and a lot more success. That’s where we were with Mantha just a few weeks ago.

Now here we are. It’s the middle of December. Christmas is just around the corner and Mantha has started to play well once again.

I don’t want to overdo this. Mantha isn’t having an unbelievable season so far. He isn’t on pace for 30+ goals and a point per game season. But he is having himself a nice season. He has 7 goals in 24 games played this season. Over a full 82 game season that would put him on pace for about 23-25 goals.

Again, nothing special. Then you realize that in 118 games Mantha played for the Caps in the previous three seasons he scored a total of 24 goals. By just watching him playing and looking at his numbers it is clear and obvious he is having himself a nice rebound season.

So what is tricky about his situation?

Mantha is currently on the final year of his contract. A contract that has a cap hit of $5.7m. A contract that the team has been trying to move.

At the start of this season I think one of the best case scenarios would have been this. Mantha has a solid start to the season, his trade value goes up a little bit, and they are able to find a deal and trade him. If you don’t think that I think you are kind of kidding yourself. The hope for Mantha wasn’t very high. He struggled for years, and even found himself scratched at the beginning of this season, for whatever reason, as confusing as it was to me.

It was pretty clear that this was probably the last season in D.C. for Mantha one way or another. He would either continue to struggle and the contract would run out and he would leave in free agency. Or he would improve a little and that would make him easier to trade.

Now that he has improved that second option becomes harder to do.

How do you trade someone who is scoring goals? On a team that still isn’t that great on offense, how do you take away a guy who is currently third on the team in goals? How do you sell that to the fans? Fans that are rooting for a team that should probably stay in a playoff race for most of this season.

A lot of fans don’t dive deep into their teams. A lot of fans love their team, watch the games, are passionate about them, but don’t do deep dives into the “business” side of the game if you want to call it that. There will potentially be a lot of angry fans who think, “Mantha has been awful for all these years, he finally gets good and THEN you get rid of him? Why did they trade him now?”

Why? He is at the final year of his deal. I’m guessing the Capitals would probably want him to take a pretty good pay cut if they re-sign him. For what he brings to the team his $5.7m cap hit is just simply too high.

I don’t have statistics on this, but I tend to think it is rare for a guy, in the prime of his career, to take a bigger pay cut to stay on a team. Especially when he can hit free agency and a team will likely overpay for you. Or at the very least, pay more than your current team is willing to pay.

At the end of the day, Mantha will probably have to take a pay cut, but he can probably find a bigger deal elsewhere and it might be a better situation too. It’s hard to figure out other teams cap situations these days so it’s hard to know who will have room next free agency. But just consider this discussion that Mantha would need to have with himself.

I have teams who wouldn’t mind signing me. Those teams might include Edmonton, New Jersey, maybe even a Chicago. I’m not getting as big a deal as I had before. Those three teams will pay me more than Washington, and I get to play with McDavid, Hughes or Bedard.

All of that is very hypothetical, obviously, but I think you can understand the point. It’s free agency, people get more than they “deserve”.

That would be the dilemma for Mantha. “Do I stay in Washington for likely less money, even after struggling for all these years. Or do I take as big a payday as I can and potentially find an even better situation?”.

Which is the tricky situation the Capitals find themselves in. Mantha improving is probably exactly what they would have wanted so it would be easier to find a trade partner. But now that he has improved it is a lot harder to pull the trigger on the plan you originally had, especially for a team that shouldn’t be taking goals out of the lineup.

So what do you do? Do you trade Mantha and potentially get something back? Probably a draft pick, maybe some kind of unproven player. Or do you let him potentially walk for nothing this offseason? Let him score some goals, shake hands and mutually part ways when the contract expires.

It was no secret that Caps were trying to trade Mantha for a while. He had very little value. You can’t tell me what he has done is exactly what the front office would have wanted so they could find a deal easier. But now, how do you trade him? And with free agency looming do you want to let him go for absolutely nothing? When his value probably has increased, at least a little.

Related Story. Capitals place Lucas Johansen on waivers. light

This is one of those tricky situations. Thankfully I’m not the one who has to make the final call.