Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan met with the media at MedStar Capitals Iceplex to discuss free agency and the trade that sent forward Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche after the team’s annual development camp wrapped up on Saturday. Here are some of the highlights from his press conference:
MacLellan told the media that Burakovsky was frustrated with his role last season as he mainly and that he “viewed it as stale.” Burakovsky wanted a top-six role somewhere and to play more. He had “quite a number of discussions” with Burakovsky’s representatives and they expressed frustration in the role he was playing last season. MacLellan said that he wouldn’t have traded Burakovsky had the right trade not come. He said that he likes Burakovsky as a person and that it was a “tough trade to make at the deadline because we wanted as much depth as we could…. We weren’t going to get picks for him at the deadline.” MacLellan said that he had discussions with other teams regarding Burakovsky at the NHL Draft last weekend.
To fill the hole vacated by Burakovsky’s departure, MacLellan said that the Capitals are “pursuing all of the options,” including trades, free agency, and the American Hockey League. He acknowledged that the cap space freed up after trading Burakovsky and defenseman Matt Niskanen helps in free agency, the initial spot where he will look to find a replacement. MacLellan said that he’s looking for a two-way forward at right price.
MacLellan said that pending unrestricted free agent and forward Brett Connolly is “still exploring his opportunities” and that it looks like the team won’t be able to afford him. He acknowledges that “tough decisions will be made at the end.”
In addition to finding a replacement, MacLellan added that fixing fourth-line is a priority after the line combined for just one goal, which came on a penalty shot, in the team’s first-round exit against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He expressed his disappointment in the performance from bottom-six performance during the playoffs.
MacLellan told the media that the Capitals have been “active” during the free agency interview period, talking to unrestricted free agents and monitoring everything from salary to what the players that they are looking at are thinking.
MacLellan said that he has not talked to forward and pending unrestricted free agent Devante Smith-Pelly lately, indicating that the 27-year old will not return to Washington for the upcoming season.
If you were holding out hope for the return of 2018 Stanley Cup hero Devante Smith-Pelly…this quote from Brian MacLellan says enough: “We’ve talked to him. I haven’t talked to him recently.” #Caps
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) June 29, 2019
The Capitals will not pursue defensive depth at the moment and will give the young defensemen, such as Christian Djoos, Jonas Seigenthaler, and Tyler Lewington, shots next season, MacLellan said.
Regarding contract negotiations with pending restricted free agent on forward Jakub Vrana, who was third on the Capitals with 24 goals last season, MacLellan told the media that the there’s a “tricky balance you have to get through” and that “negotiations go slow” because teams have more time to sign restricted free agents than unrestricted ones. He is expecting Vrana to sign a bridge deal. MacLellan said that he wanted to sign Vrana long-term deal before the salary cap dropped from an initial projection of $83 million to $81.5 million.
MacLellan concluded his interview by saying that forward Dmitrij Jaskin, who was not qualified by the Capitals prior to Tuesday’s 5:00 PM ET deadline to qualify restricted free agents, will not return for the 2019-20 season. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
By Harrison Brown