With the NHL Trade Deadline less than six days away, NoVa Caps takes a look at Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan‘s history at the deadline as he has made at least one move, including at least one acquiring a defenseman. With the Capitals aiming to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, MacLellan will likely look to add another player, but this time most likely a forward.
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.
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.
In need of defensive depth, the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the better of Washington’s two third-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Unlike MacLellan’s past in-season moves for a defenseman at the trade deadline, he approached this year’s deadline looking for the right fit rather than adding a physical defenseman or the biggest name on the market. His approach worked as Kempny proved to be one of the best deals at the deadline even though it did not involve a big name.
Most people projected Kempny, 27, to be a third-pairing defenseman since he was in and out of the lineup with a non-playoff team, but he was slotted in with Carlson on the second pair and fit perfectly. He tallied two goals, three assists, and a +1 rating in 22 regular season games with the Capitals and had two goals, five points, and a +1 in 24 playoff games.
Kempny was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and the team ended up re-signing him to a four-year contract worth $10 million ($2.5 million AAV). This season, he’s playing on the top defensive pairing and has continued to progress as he’s currently tied for 17th in the NHL with a +20 rating this season. Kempny has already doubled his career-highs with five goals and 18 points in just 57 games this season.
The Capitals made an effort to upgrade their defensive depth even more when they traded a fifth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens with defenseman Jakub Jerabek.
Jerabek had a goal and four points in 11 games with the Capitals, equalling his offensive output in his 25 games with the Canadiens. Though he was a -1, Jerabek averaged 13:57 of ice time and tallied 14 hits with the Capitals and played well most of the time. Jerabek played primarily on the third pair with Orpik when in the lineup. He rotated in and out with rookie defenseman Christian Djoos and did not play in the playoffs after Game 2 of the First Round.
Jerabek was a solid pick up as an insurance policy. He signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers just prior to training camp.
By Harrison Brown