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In his four seasons as General Manager of the Capitals, Brian MacLellan has proved himself to be smart, calculating, and pretty darn effective at getting deals done, whether it be a contract or trade. And the franchise’s first Stanley Cup win a few weeks ago is evidence of such moves. Entering the offseason, MacLellan faced challenges when it came to the team’s salary cap space, pending free agents, and most recently, a search for a new Head Coach. However, the transactions MacLellan has made in the last 24 hours have proven yet again, that he knows exactly how to push the right buttons.
Facing limited salary cap space prior to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, MacLellan dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer (a pending Restricted free agent with a cap hit of $1.5 million) and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik (cap hit of $5.5 million) to the Colorado Avalanche in a move that freed up roughly $7 million of cap space for the Capitals, allowing them more room to work with in negotiations with their pending free agents, particularly pending Unrestricted free agent defenseman John Carlson; and per MacLellan himself, those negotiations may be over soon (in a good way of course).
Per MacLellan, via The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, the Capitals and Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, are close in contract discussions and the hope is that a deal will be done within the next 24 hours. Expected to command a salary of $8 million or more, Carlson was/is expected to be the top free agent blueliner if he hits the open market on July 1. Essentially, MacLellan traded Grubauer and Orpik to free cap space (in addition to a second-round pick) and (if/when the deal gets done) John Carlson. However, MacLellan did not rule out the possibility of bringing Orpik (a valuable member of the team’s blueline the past four seasons and one of the team’s key leaders) if the Avalanche bought out his contract, something that has already happened. The Capitals would be able to bring the veteran rearguard back on a much cheaper deal than his previous one, and if all goes well, will also re-sign pending UFA defenseman Michal Kempny, meaning the team would be bringing back their entire Top 4 defensemen from their Stanley Cup run (Carlson, Kempny, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov), as well as the team’s bottom-pairing in Christian Djoos and Orpik (if he is brought back).
An indication of how close Caps are signing Carlson? Here’s this quote from MacLellan: “We’re going to do our best to sign John. We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year, we’ve had discussions and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) June 23, 2018
All of this culminates in a masterful management job by MacLellan, who still has an entire offseason of work to get through. While nothing in terms of contracts have been completed, the Capitals’ offseason to-do list may be much more manageable than it was even just a few days ago. In addition to the pending arrival of free agency in just a few days, MacLellan and the team’s front office drafted what will hopefully be key contributors in the future. including first-round pick Alexander Alexeyev. Above all else, MacLellan has worked his magic yet again and has gotten the Caps’ offseasons off to a promising start.
By Michael Fleetwood