On Friday morning, the Flyers made a trade with with the Washington Capitals to acquire defenseman Matt Niskanen in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas. The Flyers also agreed to pay 30% of Gudas’ remaining salary.
Background on Niskanen
Niskanen, a right handed defenseman, is 32 years old and is under contract for two more seasons at $5.75M each. A 12 year NHL veteran, Niskanen has played for three teams in his career, with the last five seasons being spent in Washington. For his career, Niskanen has 323 points and a +97 rating in 881 games played.
During the Caps run to the Stanley Cup Championship in 2017-2018, Niskanen registered 7 goals and 22 assists during the regular season to go along with a +24 rating. He added one goal and 8 assists during the playoffs that year.
However, last season Niskanen showed clear signs of decline. He finished with 23 points and a -3 rating, his lowest points total since 2012-2013 and a negative plus/minus for the first time since 2010-2011 when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Niskanen also logged the fewest minutes of his time spent in Washington.
From the Flyers end, this trade doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Niskanen may be slightly better than Gudas with the puck on his stick, but Gudas grades out better in defensive analytical statistics. Niskanen is also older than Gudas who just turned 29 on June 5th.
Contract wise, the trade makes even less sense. Niskanen is more expensive and is under contract for two more seasons while Gudas is controlled for only one. The fact that the Flyers are also paying for 30% of Gudas’ $3.35M salary this season, amounting to a little over $1M the Flyers are paying him to play for a divisional rival, makes the trade even more puzzling.
The Flyers are seemingly taking an unnecessary gamble with this trade. They are betting that Niskanen is better than Gudas and is worth the extra money. But, even if this becomes the case, Niskanen’s ceiling isn’t much higher than Gudas’ anyway, and Niskanen is already showing clear signs of decline. It seems the Flyers believe that Niskanen can still hold his own on top pairing minutes.
Time will tell of course, but at first look, it looks like the Flyers traded for an older, statistically worse defenseman that has a higher cap hit. Ouch.