Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan (GMBM) held a media call Monday morning to talk about all the changes and signings from the weekend. It was, as many reported, an open and honest discussion about what transpired. Although many disagree with some of the decisions he has made, he did his best to explain them. “It hurts, we spent three years to get that lineup last year.”
He started by explaining that the team “maxed out” with what they spent the “last three years building the team” and had to make some tough decisions. He was expecting to run into “issues” and “knew this was coming.” Mac compared the pain the Caps are experiencing as the “hangover” that teams that who have won the cup go through – only we haven’t. Caps were “top heavy” like Blackhawks and Pens. He is now “comfortable” with the position they are in and ready to settle on Philipp Grubauer and Andre Burakovsky. They are next on the agenda.
When asked, he said they didn’t buy out Oprik because he liked how he looked last year: “We value what he brings to young defensemen.”
On signing Evgeny Kuznetsov, MacLellan said they “went above where we thought we were going.” Kuzy had the KHL option and the Caps “had to comply with his demands.” GMBM still sees it as a good deal for the team. They could either go with Kuzy or Marcus Johansson and they opted for Kuzy.
In the season ahead, GMBM is excited about the prospect of new younger players joining the lineup. He wants to give younger guys a chance to play. The blue line will add a couple of those younger guys this year. Looking for speed there and will have to see who to slot with John Carlson.
The Caps today signed right-wing Devante Smith-Pelley from the NJ Devils to a one-year two-way deal and he his likely to get more NHL time. Mac said: “I think there’s some untapped potential.” Hershey Bears’ center Jakub Vrana might yet get a shot – haven’t heard him mentioned in a while. Maybe even Nathan Walker, the left-winger from Australia, might see more NHL time.
The Caps are Happy to have two strong goalies on the team with two young defensemen added in. There will be a change though in who is coaching the goalies this year with the formal announcement we expected. Mitch Korn will step down as goalie coach and become director of goaltending. They will promote Scott Murray to goaltender coach, who was dominate during Capitals development camp last week.
There is a sense that GMBM was slow on the draw this year and maybe didn’t have full control over the decisions that needed to be made. There was a lot of money spent for TJ Oshie and Kuznetsov which forced his hand. Additionally, perhaps the Nate Schmidt over Grubauer draft choice was unexpected.
We know that keeping all these players and salaries straight is no easy game. We have heard that before from Don Fishman, Assistant General Manager, Director of Legal Affairs, just how grueling a process this time of the year can be for managers. We don’t envy him the task of making all the numbers work.
What lies ahead? A bit of the old peppered with the new. All teams need a strategy to integrate their younger players or run the risk of losing them to other teams. Now appears to be that time. It also may mean that this will not be our Cup year, again. We’ll stand behind the Washington Capitals, we always do in the end. We are hopeful that these decisions won’t create too much chaos and we will adjust to the change.
LET’S KEEP ROCKING THE RED!!