Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With little salary cap space to work with heading into the summer, the Capitals were forced to say goodbye to top-six wingers Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, as well as bottom-six forward Daniel Winnik via free agency and a trade. This left the Caps, the NHL’s best regular season team the last two seasons, with a depleted forward group. With their aforementioned limited budget, the Capitals were forced to spend cheaply in free agency, signing right wing Devante Smith-Pelly to a one-year contract. At the start of training camp, the team signed veteran forward Alex Chiasson to a professional tryout offer, and eventually signed him to a one-year deal. 12 games (13 tonight) into the 2017-18, how are these two new faces doing in a Caps sweater?
Signed in the hopes he could be a reclamation project of sorts, Smith-Pelly has by far, been the more successful of the two wingers. In 12 games played, the 25-year old, former second-round pick has one goal and three assists, with an even plus/minus rating and averaging 12:39 minutes of ice time a night. While his advanced statistics (Corsi, Fenwick, etc.) isn’t the best, he has been a good defensive player overall for the Caps, as the team’s goaltenders have a .926 save percentage when he is on the ice, and he has 14 blocked shots and one takeaway. With a rash of injuries to multiple key forwards, Smith-Pelly has seen time on the second-line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and he has taken the most of the opportunity.
Chiasson, however, has been less fortunate when it comes to production. While he has played in just 11 games to Smith-Pelly’s 12, and has averaged just eight less seconds of ice time, the 27-year old winger has recorded only one assist, with a minus-3 rating. Defensively, he has struggled, with a Corsi rating of 45.7 and three giveaways. Furthermore, Capitals netminders have a mediocre .855 save percentage when he is on the ice, and the Capitals start in the defensive zone 50.8 percent of the time he is on the ice. While it is still quite early in the season, Chiasson’s slow start is not a welcome one for a team that will need every player to contribute. It’s possible that he still hasn’t developed a chemistry with his linemates, but either way, his play will need to improve.
As mentioned above, it is still very early on in the season, and both players have time to continue to build and improve their numbers, respectively. The signing of Smith-Pelly has proven to be a good one so far, and should he continue to produce, he may just be one of the best bargain signings made this past summer. Chiasson’s signing hasn’t proven fruitful just yet, but there is still more than half the season to play.
By Michael Fleetwood