Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has already made two upgrades to his defensive core just mere days before the Monday, 3:00 p.m. trade deadline. One of those acquisitions was defenseman Michal Kempny. After playing against the Capitals last Saturday as a member of the Blackhawks, he was traded to the Capitals less than 48-hours later for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Kempny joined his new teammates for morning skate the next day after landing in DC just shortly after midnight and had to make a quick transition to a new city, new team, new coaches all in the middle of a season of grinding.
“He’s a really good pro. That’s what sticks out. He takes care of himself, he works on his game. Off the ice with the guys he’s fit in pretty well. You talk about a well-rounded guy. He practices like a pro, he passes the puck hard, he does the drills to a T, has mobility and he’s still learning and trying to figure out how we do things,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz told the media after practice on Sunday.
Kempny had one goal and seven points in 31 games with the Blackhawks prior to the trade and 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 81 career NHL games. He didn’t play in that Tuesday’s contest with the Lightning, but was inserted into the lineup in the following game, last Thursday against the Panthers. Kempny played in 18 shifts for 14:15 of ice time and recorded a shot.
“He’s adjusting but he’s practicing like a pro and carrying himself as a pro,” said Trotz.
While in Chicago, Kempny was part of the Blackhawks’ second defensive-pairing with Connor Murphy. In his Caps debut Thursday, as well as the Capitals’ game Saturday night against the Sabres, Kempny was on the third-pairing with Brooks Orpik. During Sunday’s practice, Kempny was moved to the second-pairing as he skated with John Carlson.
“We’re gonna have to spend at least the next 10 or 12 games doing that and then we’ll have to settle in. With eight defensemen you just sort of want to see which guys are gonna play and who to play with as partners and sort of a bit of a ranking. If someone goes down, who’s filling that next role? So we’re just trying to get it in order that way,” said Trotz.
Kempny has also been active on the Capitals’ penalty killing unit at practice but has yet to be a part of it during a game. The unit has consisted of Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Chandler Stephenson and Jay Beagle so Kempny will be in for one of these guys. Orpik could be a possibility. Kemnpy is a defensive defenseman. He had four blocks in Saturday night’s game against the Sabres and 46 this season when he was with Chicago.
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With Kempny, along with Jakub Jerabek, as the newest members of the Capitals, the defense should be set for the rest of the season. But we won’t fully know until after 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Regardless, Trotz and company like the group.
“I think our guys are pretty settled in. We like our group,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said.
By Michael Marzzacco