Photo: Winging It In Motown
The Washington Capitals acquired a defenseman at the trade deadline for the fifth consecutive season when they dealt defenseman Madison Bowey and a 2020 second-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Nick Jensen. Immediately following the trade, the Capitals locked up Jensen to a four-year contract extension worth $10 million ($2.5 million). He could have become an unrestricted free agent after the season. After nailing the trade that brought defenseman Michal Kempny in from the Chicago Blackhawks at last year’s deadline, Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan is hoping to repeat his success. Like Kempny, Jensen is an under-the-radar player and not a lot of people outside of Detroit know much about him. Here is a closer look at the Capitals’ latest acquisition.
The Capitals brought Jensen, 28, on board to provide some depth on defense as Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos have each missed significant time due to injury this season. The addition of Jensen gives the Caps more depth and some insurance that won’t leave them relying on rookies Jonas Seigenthaler or Tyler Lewington during the Stanley Cup playoff run in case there is an injury. Jensen comes in with three years and 190 games of NHL experience.
Offensively, Jensen is not much of an offensive threat, putting up two goals (one of which was shorthanded) and 15 points in 60 games this season. His 71 shots on goal are third among Red Wings defensemen behind only Mike Green (83) and Dennis Cholowski (71), but his 3% shooting percentage is the worst among Red Wings skaters that have appeared in at least 20 games.
Jensen’s average ice time of 20:48 per game is currently fourth on the team and third among Red Wings defensemen. It would rank fifth on the Capitals and fourth among Capitals defensemen. Among players that have appeared in at least 41 games this season, Jensen’s average of 2:46 shorthanded ice time per game is first on Detroit. He has been playing primarily on the second-pair in Detroit, though the Red Wings’ defensive depth is the club’s weak spot.
Defensively, Jensen’s 61 hits and 21 takeaways lead all Red Wings defensemen and are fifth on the team, though his 52 giveaways are the third-most on Detroit. He also leads the Red Wings with 79 blocked shots. Jensen has been reliable in tough situations, with 55.2% of his shifts coming in defensive zone starts. At even strength, he has a Corsi-for (goals plus blocks plus misses) of 975. Jensen has a Fenwick-for percentage of 50%, meaning that the Red Wings possessed the puck half of the time when he was on the ice.
In his professional career, Jensen has never been an offensive power, though he did record 21 assists and 27 points in 75 games with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. In addition, he has a plus-minus rating of a +30 during the 2014-15 season.
According to Natural Statrick, Jensen’s 181 defensive zone starts are tied with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar for the 26th most in the NHL. His 62 neutral zone starts are tied with Capitals defenseman John Carlson for the 67th-most in the league.
After knocking the Kempny trade out of the park, the Capitals took another low-risk, potentially high-reward deal in acquiring Jensen and showed their trust in him by signing him to a multi-year contract extension just hours after they traded for him. He should be able to improve his numbers playing with a high-octane Capitals’ offense.
This is a nice way to try to improve a Capitals defense that gives up an average of 3.15 goals-per-game, the 10th highest in the league, and 32.5 shots-per-game, tied with the Buffalo Sabres for the ninth-highest in the NHL, and a penalty kill that has an efficiency of 78.6%, which is only 22nd in the NHL.
Will Jensen have a similar impact that Kempny had last season en route to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup? Stay tuned…
By Harrison Brown