Brian MacLellan and the NHL Trade Deadline

Capitals management and scouting staff meet at 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Photo: @Alex_Prewitt

Capitals GM Brian MacLellan has been a very busy man around the NHL over the past couple of seasons.  He has brought a different approach to the Capitals General Manager position, as he has been aggressive with filling team holes.

While he has made some good moves during the past couple of summers, he has been very conservative at the last couple of NHL Trade Deadlines.


At the last NHL Trade Deadline, MacLellan parted ways with longtime Capital Brooks Laich, as he traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  It was a move that needed to be made for the organization, because Laich’s production was not matching what his price tag was worth on his contract.  Unfortunately for MacLellan, he had to part with a 2nd round pick and defensive prospect Connor Carrick in the deal in order to persuade the Leafs to take on Laich’s bad contract.  In this trade, the Capitals were also able to obtain Daniel Winnik, who was mainstay on the Capitals highly ranked penalty kill through the playoffs.  Winnik has 1 more year left on his deal, with an affordable cap hit of $2.25 million.

Laich’s contract was not signed by MacLellan, and the Capitals needed to open up some cap space for this offseason so they could re-sign some of their younger players, who are up for contract renewals.  It is hard to fault him for looking out for the future of the club, and sometimes tough decisions need to be made in the salary cap era.

MacLellan also made another interesting move at the last NHL Trade Deadline.  He traded a 2017 3rd round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for veteran defenseman Mike Weber.  Weber did not get much playing time in Washington, as he only played in 10 regular season games and 2 playoff games for the Caps.

The intention behind the Weber trade was to add defensive depth and an additional veteran presence.  With young defensemen like Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt on the roster, MacLellan wanted to add a guy like Weber for his toughness and leadership qualities.  The trade had good intentions behind it, but some people may question if it was worth giving up a 3rd round pick to get Weber.  Weber probably will not be re-signed by the Capitals in the offseason.


In MacLellan’s first NHL Trade Deadline as the Capitals GM, he attempted to fill some holes with a couple of veteran players.

MacLellan traded a 2015 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick to the Calgary Flames in exchange for forward Curtis Glencross.  Glencross struggled to find his game under Barry Trotz.  He scored 4 goals and 7 points in 18 regular season games, and he had only 1 goal in 10 playoff games in 2015.  It was a stiff price to pay for Glencross, who did not re-sign with the club after his acquisition.

MacLellan made another depth maneuver at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline.  He acquired veteran defenseman Tim Gleason in exchange for defenseman Jack Hillen and a 2015 4th round pick.  Gleason and Hillen both did not re-sign with their respective clubs, and Hillen eventually retired from pro hockey, so this trade eventually became a wash.



The NHL Trade Deadline is a time where NHL GMs all have different plans.  If there is a contending team looking to make a move, that team will want to add to their lineup for a Cup run.  If there is a team that is in rebuild, that team will want to trade off assets, and gather additional draft picks.

Brian MacLellan’s teams have been a strong contender over the past couple of seasons.  It is hard to fault him for making some moves to try and boost the Capitals roster so they can make a deep Cup run.

MacLellan has sacrificed a handful of picks over the past couple of seasons in order to get the Capitals in a good position to win the Stanley Cup.  While some of his moves have not been popular or successful, he has been very aggressive, which is something Capitals fans are not used to seeing from their club.

As long as a team drafts well, which the Capitals have, it is okay to sacrifice some draft picks along the way.  The Capitals still have a quality group of young players, which they will build their future around.  Players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, and Tom Wilson have only scratched the surface with what they are able to do in the NHL.  The players mentioned are all under 25-years of age and they all have time to continue to evolve their games.

It is very rare that top tier players are available at the NHL Trade Deadline, as most of the moves that take place are for depth players.  Any NHL General Manager must read the market well, and they have to be careful not to overpay in certain situations.

Brian MacLellan has been very strategic with his approach, and he clearly has a vision for his club.  He has shown the ability to make some tough moves as a GM.  He has said that he wants his teams to have good team chemistry, and he does not want that team chemistry broken.  MacLellan is willing to tweak his roster regularly, which is something that was not seen with previous Capitals GMs.

In the NHL business, any General Manager has to be aggressive.  They must have a blueprint for their clubs.  They must have the ability to make tough moves, and they have to be able to manage the salary cap.  Has MacLellan been a perfect GM with his moves?  No, he has not.  Has he been aggressive enough in an effort to make the Capitals a legitimate Stanley Cup contender?  Yes, he has.

By: George Foussekis

About George Foussekis

I am a sports fanatic. I love hockey and football, and I enjoy writing about my two favorite sports. I am a proud Old Dominion University alum.
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