BREAKING: The #Flyers have acquired defenseman Matt Niskanen from the Capitals in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas.— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) June 14, 2019
This move will decrease the Flyers’ total cap room by $2.4 million dollars at the moment, as they will take on Niskanen’s $5.75 cap hit which lasts until after the 2020-21 season. The Flyers will also retain 30% of Gudas’ salary, which amounts to just above $1 million dollars.
Niskanen recorded 8 goals and 17 assists for 25 total points last season, five more than Gudas. However, Niksanen’s 47.47% Corsi-For percentage at 5v5 is slightly worse than Gudas (49.38% at 5v5). Niksanen’s statistical profile grades him as an okay/average replacement to Gudas at best and as a poorer, older, and more expensive player at worst. The only advanced metric Niskanen grades out significantly better for is in expected goals (48.47 vs 43.73), which makes sense. Niskanen is a more selective player with his shots and is more comfortable with the puck on his stick than Gudas. However, from a defensive perspective, the Flyers have downgraded. In terms of expected goals against, Niskanen was torched last season (59.49 vs 42.19 for Gudas).
On the move, Chuck Fletcher had this to say:
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher: "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 defenseman."— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) June 14, 2019
If you were looking for the Flyers to acquire a defenseman who is a better puck-mover and is more composed offensively than Gudas, then you have your wish. However, other than this quality, Gudas has been mostly better than Niskanen defensively (not significantly so, but worse to a somewhat noticeable level). It is certainly a move that will shake up the Flyers defense core, and from Fletcher’s words, is intended to help out the young defensemen the Flyers have coming up (sort of like an Andrew MacDonald but not nearly as ineffective). Niskanen will be entering his age 33 season, and he’ll look to slot in on the right point on the 2nd or 3rd pair.