NHL trade deadline: Leafs trade Rasmus Sandin to Capitals for Erik Gustafsson, pick

Rasmus Sandin was a first-round draft pick of the Leafs in 2018 and was in the midst of a breakout season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have traded defenceman Rasmus Sandin to the Washington Capitals in exchange for defenceman Erik Gustafsson and a 2023 first-round pick originally belonging to the Boston Bruins, the team announced Tuesday.

Gustafsson has recorded seven goals and 38 points in 61 games for the Capitals this season, while Sandin has registered four goals and 20 points in 51 contests for the Maple Leafs.

After a series of moves made before the deadline, including the acquisitions of Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty, Toronto needed to become cap compliant. Gustafsson joins the Maple Leafs on an expiring $800,000 contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

Washington controlled 53.7 percent of the expected goals with Gustafsson on the ice at 5-on-5 this season, per Natural Stat Trick, and the 30-year-old is in the middle of a resurgent campaign. Gustafsson will likely slot into Toronto’s third pair, although we’re curious to see how Sheldon Keefe readjusts his lines ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, especially after acquiring McCabe — another left-shot defenceman — on Monday.

McCabe practiced alongside T.J. Brodie on Tuesday, so Gustafsson will likely slot into the team’s seventh defensive spot, at least during the initial few games of the Maple Leafs’ current road trip.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Rasmus Sandin during the third period of the NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 6-1. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Toronto drafted Sandin with the 29th overall pick in 2018 and he was in the middle of a breakout season, playing the best hockey of his career during a December 2022 stretch. Sandin is a mobile puck-moving defenceman who has adapted to the modern pace of the NHL. He can be deployed in all situations and was beginning to improve as a power-play quarterback in limited opportunities.

It’s a major win for the Capitals to get a burgeoning star while they figure out what direction they’re going to take after the 2022-23 season.

Sandin and John Carlson are the only Capitals defenders under contract for the 2023-24 season.