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Anthony Mantha is heading to Washington in a deadline blockbuster. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
Anthony Mantha is heading to Washington in a deadline blockbuster. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings have completed a massive trade just before the NHL’s trade deadline.

Power forward Anthony Mantha is reportedly headed to the Capitals in exchange for a bounty, which includes forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, as well as a first-round selection in 2021 and a second-round pick in 2022, Kevin Weekes of the NHL Network was first to report.

Mantha was arguably the most talented goal scorer on the rebuilding Red Wings and is signed through the 2023-24 season at a shade under $6 million per season. Mantha’s production has fallen off over the last three seasons since scoring 25 goals in 67 games in 2018-19, and there have been whispers of issues associated with effort and intensity for the last-place club. However, he’s twice hit 48 points and flirted with a point-per-game pace in last year’s shortened season. 

Washington should be confident that Mantha can provide more in a more favorable environment.

Vrana has fallen out a favor a bit in Washington, being scratched in recent games by Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette. Vrana has also hit impressive offensive totals, last season managing 52 points, but has not met the expectations tied to his lottery selection in 2014. That said, he should be considered a routine 20-plus goal scorer as more of a skill-first, perimeter player.

Mantha may have the higher pedigree, but Vrana could be considered the asset with more surplus value in the deal. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season, currently earning a shade under $3.5 million on the second season of a two-year deal. It’s unlikely he eclipses the annual value on Mantha’s contract just yet, which Steve Yzerman signed just a few months ago.

Beyond anything, this is a massive opportunity for Mantha, who will now appear in meaningful games for the first time in his career. Washington is holding onto the top seed in the hotly-contested race in the NHL’s East Division, and seem primed for a lengthy run. 

Meanwhile, Detroit adds to critical futures assets in their long road back to respectability with two high selections now in the Yzerman holster. It’s more likely that these picks contribute to a winning team than Mantha ever would based on the timeline of this rebuild. 

For now, Vrana, a Stanley Cup champion from a few years ago, will now have the opportunity to take on a featured role in Detroit.

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