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Washington Capitals gamble on this season by trading for Detroit Red Wings’ Anthony Mantha

Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha, left, gets around Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cal Foote during the third period of on April 3 in Tampa, Fla. (AP file photo)

Flat cap or not, the Washington Capitals refused to stand by and watch their division foes improve their rosters without making a move at the NHL trade deadline Monday.

Not long after the Boston Bruins acquired 2018 NHL MVP Taylor Hall from Buffalo, the Capitals responded by mortgaging a valuable portion of their future to acquire forward Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings.

With the championship window beginning to close on the Alex Ovechkin-led roster, Washington went all-in on Mantha by trading wingers Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, a 2021 first- and a 2022 second-round pick to Detroit. They have literally no room to maneuver now with $0 in salary cap room but felt it was worth the risk.

The 26-year-old Mantha is a two-time 20-goal scorer, who uses his big 6-foot-5, 234-pound frame to create space and is signed for three more seasons at an average salary cap hit of $5.7 million.

“We’ve been aggressive,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, ‘Let’s shake the team up.’ I think we’ve had a good year so far. … Things lined up, and this is what we ended up doing.”

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak, left, and Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha fight in the second period on March 9 in Detroit. (AP file photo)

The Capitals were among the few teams taking an aggressive approach at a time a flat salary cap of $81.5 million left many others handcuffed.

Only 17 trades were completed Monday, involving just 26 players. That’s down from the NHL trade deadline day record of 32 deals involving 55 players a year ago, two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic paused the season and dealt a devastating blow to the league’s financial picture.

“It’s not like the old days where if you just want a player, you go make a deal,” said Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell, who played collegiately at Northern Michigan University. “Lots more maneuvering, a lot more involved in it.”

The Red Wings also landed a fourth-round pick as part of the trade in which Tampa Bay acquired defenseman David Savard from Columbus.

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