PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher is staying busy ahead of next Friday’s NHL draft. The Flyers on Friday morning swapped veteran defensemen with the Capitals, acquiring 32-year-old Matt Niskanen from Washington for Radko Gudas.
Niskanen scored eight goals and 25 points in 80 games last season with the Capitals. He is a right-handed shot and has averaged more than 20 minutes per game over the past seven seasons. He is a right-handed shot who presumably will play alongside Ivan Provorov.
“I was a little surprise, not totally shocked but it caught me a little off guard,” Niskanen said on a conference call. “I knew this is the time of year when these things can happen and I knew what kind of situation Washington was in, so I knew there was a possibility.”
“I envision myself being a really good partner for one of these young studs, trying to give them confidence to do the things that they do well and I’ll be right there beside them,” he added. “I think I can fit in well with these young kids that can skate and move the puck. I think I’ll fit in well, I think I have that ability.”
Niskanen has two years left on a seven-year, $40.25 million contract he signed with Washington in the summer of 2014. He carries a $5.75 million cap hit.
Entering his 13th season, Niskanen has 323 points in 881 career regular-season games and comes with 125 career playoff games under his belt.
“We’re very happy to have Matt join the Flyers,” Fletcher said. “He is a veteran right-shot defenseman who has a track record of success as a Stanley Cup champion. Having played heavy minutes in all situations throughout his career, Matt will be a steadying influence to our talented and young group of defensemen.”
During the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run in 2018, Niskanen had nine points and was a plus-6 in 24 games while averaging 25:23.
“Without going into everything, [Fletcher] said I was a player they were looking at for a while now,” Niskanen said. “He was excited to have me, so that’s always good to hear. He said he likes the team, he felt that they’re ready to pop. Young team, they’re close, just need to add some more pieces along the way.”
The 29-year-old Gudas heads to Washington on the final year of his four-year, $13.4 million contract signed in the summer of 2016.
The Flyers are retaining 30% of Gudas’ remaining contract.
“We would like to thank Matt for all of his contributions to our organization for the past five seasons,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Matt is a consummate professional and was a big part of our success. We wish him and his family all the best moving forward.
“We feel this move provides us with financial flexibility as we look for additional ways to strengthen our team,” MacLellan added. “In addition, we are pleased to welcome Radko to our organization. Radko is a good defensive defenseman that plays a competitive, physical game.”
Gudas scored four goals with 63 penalties minutes in 77 games last season with the Flyers.
The Niskanen trade is the second move of significant made by Fletcher in what should be a busy offseason.
On June 3, the Flyers acquired center Kevin Hayes’ rights from the Winnipeg Jets. They have until June 23 to negotiate exclusively with Hayes before the pending unrestricted free agent can begin interviewing with other teams on June 23.
Hayes, or any other pending UFA, cannot discuss contract details during the interview period, however. Free agency opens on July 1.
Fletcher on Monday said he’s had “some good preliminary conversations” with Hayes and his agent.