Not satisfied with their place atop the NHL standings, the Boston Bruins upgraded their team by acquiring defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
In exchange for Orlov and Hathaway, the Bruins sent a 2023 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, 2024 third-round pick, and forward Craig Smith to the Capitals.
In order to make the money work for Boston, Washington retained 50% of Orlov's salary, and the Minnesota Wild got involved as a third-party to retain 25% of his salary. The Wild also shipped the rights to former sixth-round pick Andrei Svetlakov to the Bruins in exchange for a fifth-round selection in 2023.
The Bruins, already one of the best defensive teams in the NHL, just got even stronger on the blue line. On the other end of this deal, the Capitals gained some assets that will allow them to rebuild on the fly with Alex Ovechkin still playing at a high level.
Let's take a look at how each team fared in this three-way trade.
Let's start here: The Bruins got better on defense. There is no debate about that. Orlov is an underrated player, and he is far better than Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, who Boston has been linked to in recent weeks.
Orlov, 31, has been an effective defenseman throughout his 11-year career, even if he isn't a household name. This season has been a struggle for the entire Capitals team, but Orlov has still made a positive impact. With Orlov on the ice at five-on-five, the Capitals have controlled 50.83% of the expected goals, according to Natural Stat Trick. That number won't blow anyone away, but it's solid considering the workload Orlov has faced with John Carlson battling injury this season.
Orlov is also a reliable driver of offense. He's a good puck-moving defenseman who can get the puck up the ice quickly to create dangerous chances at the other end. This season, Orlov has three goals and 16 assists in 43 games, but he recorded 12 goals and 35 points in 2021-22.
There is a chance that Orlov takes his game to another level in Boston, which will be a much more favorable situation for him. Orlov may still play a top-four role for the Bruins, but it would be alongside Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo. Orlov should soar on a pairing with either of those players.
As for Hathaway, he will provide the Bruins with a reliable bottom-six forward and has some encouraging on-ice impacts. The Capitals controlled 55.02% of the expected goals share and had a plus-6 goal differential when Hathaway was on the ice at five-on-five. Those numbers should only improve on a deep Bruins team.
The biggest question about this move for the Bruins is whether they should have made it at all. Boston is already a top-two defensive team in the NHL in terms of both expected and actual goals, and their blue line depth is rock solid with Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton. Was it worth it for Boston to sacrifice so much draft capital to fix what wasn't broken?
Those picks may have been better spent acquiring a dynamic top-six forward. The Bruins haven't really had any trouble scoring goals this season, but if there was one nitpick about their roster, it would be that the forward group might be a bit top heavy. One more scoring threat would make Boston look pretty invulnerable.
With the acquisition of Orlov, an already elite defensive team just got even tougher to score against. That type of defensive prowess will come in handy once the playoffs begin, but Boston did fork over quite a few future assets to address a need it didn't have. That takes a little bit of the shine off what was an otherwise solid upgrade for the Bruins. Grade -- B+
The Capitals saw the writing on the wall and quickly pivoted to seller mode ahead of the NHL trade deadline. After falling to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, Washington has now lost six straight games in regulation, and the team is 13th in the Eastern Conference in points percentage.
With the Capitals sliding toward the bottom of the standins, general manager Brian MacLellan wasted no time flipping two pending free agents for draft picks.
In an ideal world, Washington would have probably preferred to make the playoffs this year and re-sign Orlov in free agency, but he is 31-years-old and will generate quite a bit of interest in free agency. The same could be said for Hathaway, even though he will likely be signed for a more manageable cap hit.
Now, the Capitals have two first-round picks this year and all kinds of flexibility moving forward. Washington has 10 players who are slated to be unrestricted free agents this summer and two more who will be restricted free agents. MacLellan could even flip a couple more players to really stockpile draft picks and prospects.
This trade isn't the start of a full rebuild for the Capitals. Instead, Washington will probably try to reload on the fly as long as Alex Ovechkin is still playing at a high level, and this return will help them do this.
If there is a knock on this trade from the Capitals' perspective, it's that they might have been able to hold out for more, depending upon what happens with other defensemen like Jacob Chychrun and Gavrikov. A desperate team might have been willing to drive the price a little higher near the deadline.
Even if Washington didn't maximize its return for Orlov and Hathaway, this deal makes a lot of sense. The Capitals deserve praise for facing the reality of their current situation and looking ahead to the future. Grade -- A-
For the second time in the span of a couple weeks, the Wild have picked up a free draft pick to take on a small sliver of a player's cap hit. In the words of comedic genius Tim Heidecker, "It's free real estate."
Taking on 25% of Orlov's cap hit does very slightly reduce the Wild's ability to improve their own team ahead of the deadline, and they can now only retain salary for one more player. Still, Minnesota still has plenty of room if it wants to add a player or two, and it has discovered that you don't have to be one of the most putrid teams in the league to weaponize cap space. Grade -- A-