The Washington Capitals added two wingers more or less for the price of one.
Washington signed free agent forwards Richard Panik and Garnet Hathaway while letting Brett Connolly leave town to join the Florida Panthers when NHL free agency opened Monday.
The Capitals inked Panik to a four-year, $11 million contract ($2.75 million average annual value) and Hathaway to a four-year, $6 million deal ($1.5 million AAV). Connolly signed for four years, $14 million ($3.5 million AAV) with the Panthers.
Washington’s priority in free agency was a new right wing to slot in next to Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin on the third line, after fulfilling Andre Burakovsky’s trade request by dealing him to the Avalanche on Friday — and knowing Connolly could be headed out the door as well.
Panik is the better fit than Hathaway to replace Connolly, who had a career year in 2018-19, putting up 22 goals and 24 assists while playing mostly on the third line. His effort provided great secondary scoring for the Capitals, but also raised his earning power on the open market.
General manager Brian MacLellan, who had previously implied they were not going to retain Connolly, told reporters the front office wanted to stay below $3 million per year for the third-line right wing spot.
Washington will be Panik’s fifth NHL team. The 28-year-old Slovak tallied 14 goals and 19 assists for the Coyotes last year. His best NHL season was 2016-17 with the Blackhawks, when he posted a Connolly-esque 22 goals and 22 helpers and played all 82 games.
“We like his two-way game,” MacLellan said. “He’s always produced somewhat offensively. We expect him to be that 35- to 45-point range. His 5-on-5 point production has been pretty solid. He can play in a top-six role, at times.”
Hathaway has played all four seasons of his NHL career with the Calgary Flames and had a career year in 2018-19 with 11 goals, eight assists and 200 hits in 76 games. Hathaway hails from Maine and played collegiately at Brown.
Both players also could become useful additions to Washington’s penalty kill. Hathaway averaged 1:41 of short-handed ice time per game last season, while Panik put in 1:11 per game.
Hathaway, saying he did not see any “void” in the Capitals’ lineup they had to fill, hopes to complement the current penalty killers.
“It’s something I take a lot of pride in with my game,” Hathaway said on a conference call. “I think in this past year, I learned a lot about it. I worked a lot on the penalty kill. So right now, I think that’s a role I’d really like to take on.”
Washington also agreed to terms with forwards Brendan Leipsic and Philippe Maillet, the latter on a two-way contract. Maillet comes from the Ontario Reign of the AHL, while Leipsic has spent time with four NHL teams in the last four seasons.