Brian MacLellan’s off-season moves this summer have drawn a lot of attention, as the Capitals are beginning to retool the team and make roster changes to adhere to the salary cap. In addition to the off-season moves, it’s also worth taking a look at the in-season moves made during his tenure as the Washington Capitals General Manager. While some of the moves have paid off, others have been a bit of a bust.
The first trade MacLellan made during the season was a trade acquiring Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason in exchange for pending UFA defenseman Jack Hillen and a 2015 4th round pick. In 17 games, Gleason had two assists and 11 PIM. Gleason was brought in to establish the physical presence the Caps thought they needed to get past the New York Islanders and Rangers that season. Gleason mostly played on the 3rd pairing with Mike Green and added more depth to the backend. They already signed Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen the previous offseason. Gleason was held scoreless in the playoffs and would retire from hockey following his stint with the Capitals.
Gleason and Hillen were probably a wash offensively and the added physicality didn’t hurt the Caps down the stretch.
The Capitals acquired Calgary left winger Curtis Glencross for a 2nd and 3rd round pick, a move that was controversial at the time. Glencross got a hot start for Washington, scoring 4 goals in his first 5 games as a Capital. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of his time in D.C. He finished the year with 4 goals and 7 points in 18 regular season games. His lone playoff goal came in a 2-1 game loss in the 2nd round series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers. Glencross mostly played in the bottom six with Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr. Like Gleason, Glencross would retire from hockey following his brief stint with the Capitals.
A 2nd and 3rd round pick proved to be an expensive bet on a player that didn’t work out.
Former LA Kings center Mike Richards was brought in to D.C. in January when he signed a 1-year contract worth $1M to add center depth after it was announced that Jay Beagle would miss a lot of time due to injury. Richards struggled in Washington, scoring two goals and 5 points in 39 games.
Bringing the 30-year-old Richards to Washington was a roll of the dice, but a relatively inexpensive one.
Daniel Winnik was brought in at the trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Brooks Laich, Connor Carrick, and a 2016 2nd round pick. Washington also acquired a 2016 5th round pick. This may have been MacLellan’s best in-season move to date, because Laich was in the midst of a season in which he struggled despite a $4.5 million cap hit. Laich scored just 1 goal and 7 points in 60 games that year. Winnik scored 2 goals and 3 points in the last 20 contests of that season, but he amped up his output last year tallying 12 goals and 25 points in 72 games. He played very well with the Caps, contributing nicely on the penalty kill, scoring 2 short-handed goals. He made the Caps fourth line one of the most impressive in the league this past season. Winnick is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Winnik proved to be an upgrade over the struggling Laich who never returned to form after an injury. Most importantly, the trade freed up much-needed cap space the next year since Winnick’s contract was a much more affordable $2 million a year.
Mike Weber was brought into Washington from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 3rd round pick in the 2017 Draft. Weber was brought in for a physical presence, but he finished with a -1 rating in 10 games. He only played two games in the playoffs, but he made a costly turnover in Game 4 against the Penguins in overtime that cost the Capitals the game and, perhaps, the series. The trade was part of the reason why the Caps didn’t have any picks in the first three rounds this year.
Despite the seemingly reasonable cost at the time to acquire an extra defenseman, Weber was a bust.
Brian MacLellan brought in All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to help the Capitals try to break the playoff curse. The Caps acquired Shattenkirk and former Caps prospect goalie Pheonix Copley from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Zach Sanford, a 2017 1st round pick, Brad Malone, and conditional picks. Shattenkirk never seemed to gel in his short time with the Caps. He was not strong defensively, earning a +4 in the regular season and a -4 in the playoffs. Offensively, he scored 2 goals and 14 points in 19 games in the regular season and added a goal and 6 points in 13 playoff games.
While Shattenkirk didn’t prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Caps, it’s important to consider the trade in context. Shattenkirk was the most sought-after player approaching the trade deadline and Caps fans were terrified that Pittsburgh might land him. MacLellan deftly blocked the Pens from grabbing Shattenkirk, but the season had a familiar ending for the snake-bit Capitals.
By: Harrison Brown