Good luck slowing down the Washington Capitals forward corps now. The Caps made a splash at the deadline by adding Anthony Mantha from Detroit, the 6-foot-5, 234-pounder with a scoring touch. The price was high, with Washington sending scoring winger Jakub Vrana and utility player Richard Panik along with a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick, but the timing makes a lot of sense if you're the Capitals.
The Stanley Cup window for this particular Washington crew (the best in franchise history, for the record) is closing, but for now the team is still very much a contender. Mantha joins future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin, raucous veteran T.J. Oshie and nasty power forward Tom Wilson on the team's wings, giving the Capitals some serious beef in the top-six for centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov (though the Caps have more of a top-nine right now and Oshie has played with Lars Eller).
There were high expectations for Mantha in Detroit after the Red Wings grabbed him with the 20th pick overall in the 2013 draft and those expectations kept climbing when he put up 57 goals and 120 points for Val-d'Or of the QMJHL the next season. His size, speed and shot were obvious calling cards, but rounding out his game in the NHL proved to be a challenge and development took a while.
Having said that, Mantha has put up some pretty decent offensive numbers on some really bad Detroit teams and his 14 points in nine games for Canada en route to silver at the 2019 World Championship showed what he could do with better teammates. In Washington, he gets those better teammates.
The fact Mantha will be out of the spotlight is an interesting X-factor as well. The Capitals are Ovechkin's team and have been for more than a decade now. The pressure on Mantha won't be the same, even though the team's expectations for success are much higher than they were for the Red Wings. Perhaps this is the environment necessary for Mantha to become the 30-plus goal-scorer he has teased in recent years. He is also under contract for three more seasons after this one, with a cap hit of $5.7 million.
For Detroit, this is a big-time return and Vrana will nearly cover Mantha's lost goals, albeit in a different style of goal-scorer. As a pending restricted free agent this summer, Vrana gets a bit of a try-out with the Wings the rest of the season, but surely he will be excited about the chance to play more minutes after being a bit buried in Washington at times.
On top of Vrana, there's also the two draft picks here and they are big for Detroit. The Red Wings have been very good at drafting under GM Steve Yzerman but the restocking mission isn't complete yet. Detroit now has seven picks in the first three rounds of the 2021 draft and their own first-rounder could be first overall. The 2022 second-rounder is also a great chip that gives Yzerman flexibility on the draft floor.
All in all, this was a pretty exciting trade for both sides and it will be fun to watch the ramifications in the coming years.