Devante Smith-Pelly (DSP) was a key component of the Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup win. It has not always been an easy journey for DSP in the NHL. He made his first appearance with the Washington Capitals in late-summer of 2016 after the NJ Devils bought out his contract. He would play two seasons with the Capitals before they sent him down to the AHL Hershey Bears. Although he joined the Caps for the 2019 playoffs, his future again hangs in the balance as the Caps general manager looks at the big picture for the coming few seasons. With the pool of talent in Hershey from which they can draw and other signings they need to consider, it is highly unlikely that he will suit up in a Caps sweater again.
July 2017 the Capitals announced that they had signed the right-winger to a one-year two-way contract valued at 650,000/$300,000, depending on if he played in the NHL or AHL. When DSP joined the Caps training camp in September 2017, it was a chance for the then 25-year old to demonstrate that he had something to contribute to the Capitals’ goal to win their first Stanley Cup. At the time, there were some concerns voiced about his consistency and maybe some questions about a possible nagging knee injury.
In a March 2016 interview with NJ.com, he said thought that he would return to the Devils as “part of the long term plans.” By June of 2017 the Devils bought out the second year of his contract to open up space on their salary cap. It was on the heels of one of the worst seasons for the Devils. In 53 of those games, Smith-Pelly scored four goals and five assists–one of his lowest scoring seasons in the NHL.
DSP Stanley Cup Highlights
In the 2018 final playoff series Game Five, with the Las Vegas Knights leading 3-2, Devante Smith-Pelly tied up the game with a sweet little move off a pass from Brooks Orpik. This goal contributed to the Caps ultimately bringing home the Stanley Cup and defeating the Knights with the game-winner coming from Lars Eller on June 7th. Without DSP, the series might have gone the other way.
In Game Four of the final round he showed his scoring prowess with the third goal of the game. It was a crazy unforgettable goal!
During the 2 June Game Three against Las Vegas, he was called for two penalties (interference and tripping) in the first and second periods and came back to score the third goal for the Caps off a pass from Jay Beagle.
DSP Career Highlights
In December 2017, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded his 50th NHL Career assist.
In 2012 he was part of Team Canada’s World Junior’s hockey team which won the Bronze Medal.
The Anaheim Ducks drafted Smith-Pelly in second round of the 2010 Draft. He joined the Ducks for the 2011/12 season but did not play a full season until 2014. He went up and down to the minors during those first years.
The Caps Shift Gears
He was playoff magic in 2018, showing up just when the Caps needed him. He had some of the most memorable goals of the playoffs with seven goals and one assist, his best playoff performance to date. He cemented his reputation as a key contributor to the Capitals success that summer and his name was chiseled on the Stanley Cup forever.
When GM Brian MacLellan brought Smith-Pelly to the Capitals, it was a risky, yet inexpensive, move for the team. The team was struggling with their salary cap and looking for ways to improve their edge without breaking the bank. The Washington Post reported that GMBM considered DSP a “project” for improvement, highlighting “the conditioning level or the work ethic have been a little inconsistent.” It appears that he still has those concerns despite Smith-Pelly’s rather good performance in Hershey.
The Capitals made it through the summer of free agency with few changes in 2018. They seemed ready to stand pat with most of the team that had brought home the championship title. Initially, they did not send him a qualifying offer, likely because of the ongoing salary cap issues for the team and the need to make room for other costly deals.
the Capitals eventually offered Smith-Pelly a one-year, one million dollar contract, indicating that the Caps still were not ready for a long-term commitment without seeing if he was fully meeting their criteria. He reportedly turned down other larger offers to stay with the Caps. At the time of signing, DSP had this to say about staying with the team: “I have confidence in myself that I can carry over from the playoffs and do something and then set myself up for something bigger and more stable later.”
It was widely reported that Smith-Pelly was out of shape when training camp began in September 2018, after a summer in which the Capitals celebrated their Stanley Cup win. He didn’t play in any preseason games and the Caps new coach, Todd Reirden, sat DSP out to observe other players from Hershey. It was the first sign that something wasn’t lining up on the ice.
The Caps placed DSP on waivers in February 2019. When by February 21 no other team claimed him off of waivers, the Caps officially announced that they assigned Devante Smith-Pelly to the Hershey Bears. Once there, it seemed that he was getting his stride back and might be on the short list of players to join the Caps during the playoffs.
On April 18 GM Brian MacLellan said he had no plans to call up DSP for the Caps playoff series. That all changed April 18 when TJ Oshie was injured in game four of round one. DSP skated onto the ice at Capital One Arena to chants of: “DSP DSP” for game five and the expectation that he would be what the Caps needed to secure a round one win. It didn’t. The man in the number 25 jersey played three games with zero goals or assists and only two shots. To be fair, none of the Capitals played at their expected level of performance.
There has been little buzz around the Stanley Cup hero. It seems as if the Capitals hopes for DSP have diminished. With the pool of young talented players in Hershey, it makes sense that they would augment some of their older players with younger faster tougher players to bring home the Stanley Cup in 2020.
No matter how it goes, Caps fans will ever be grateful for Devante and his contribution in the 2017/18 season. Fan will continue to marvel at those game-changing goals in the final round. He will always be part of the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Championship Team!