Photo: Jewels From The Crown
After a one-goal performance from the Washington Capitals‘ fourth-line in the team’s seven-game series loss in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, change to the trio was inevitable. After locking up forwards Richard Panik and Garnet Hathaway to four-year contracts, the Capitals brought in forward Brendan Leipsic as the team’s final signing of July 1. Leipsic signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Capitals. NoVa Caps takes a deeper look at the Capitals’ latest acquisition in the final piece of our three-part series going in-depth on each of General Manager Brian MacLellan‘s free agent signings.
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Leipsic, 25, was the 89th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators, though he never played a game for the club. The Predators traded Leipsic, forward Olli Jokinen, and a 2015 first-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson on February 15, 2015. The Golden Knights selected Leipsic in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft as their pick from the Maple Leafs but then traded him to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline in 2018 for defensive prospect Philip Holm.
Leipsic, who was listed at 5’10” and 182 pounds at the start of 2018-19, split last season with the Canucks and Los Angeles Kings. The Kings claimed him off waivers on December 3 after he had tallied two goals, five points, and a -10 rating in 17 games with Vancouver to start the year. Even though he finished the season with seven goals, 23 points, and a -14 rating in 62 games, the Kings declined to qualify him as a restricted free agent. Of his 17 assists last season, 10 were primary according to Natural Stattrick. 11 of his 15 assists in the 2017-18 season were primary as well.
The Capitals have signed Brendan Leipsic. As a member of the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, he set a career high with 23 points. Additionally, he led Kings forwards in assists per 60 minutes of play (1.30) and ranked second in points per 60 minutes (1.73) at 5-on-5. pic.twitter.com/fFtbZKwO3E
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 2, 2019
He has split 126 career NHL games with the Kings, Canucks, Maple Leafs, and Vegas Golden Knights. In his career, Leipsic has posted 13 goals, 48 points, and a -19 rating. He was quite productive in the AHL as he recorded at least 14 goals and 51 points in each of his three seasons on the farm.
Leipsic set career-highs in goals, points, and shots (92) this past season. In each of his three NHL seasons, Leipsic has finished with a minus rating. Despite the fact that he has never played center, Leipsic’s career-low in faceoff-winning percentage is 50%.
Four of his seven goals last season came on the power-play, where he averaged 1:47 worth of ice-time per game. Both of the power-play units that he played on finished 22nd and 27th in the NHL. Leipsic was given a good load of minutes last season as he finished the campaign with an average of 13:47 per game, up 31 seconds from the 2017-18 season.
Defensively, Leipsic posted 28 blocked shots, 56 hits, 22 takeaways, and 21 giveaways. Leipsic was near the bottom or the middle of the pack on his teams in each category, but he was tied with forward Sven Baertschi for sixth on the Canucks with an average of 1.7 takeaways per game.
Leipsic is projected to begin the 2019-20 season with the Capitals on the fourth-line with Hathaway and center Nic Dowd, his teammate for a short stint with the Canucks from two seasons ago. He finished his regular-season on the Kings’ third-line before missing the team’s final nine games due to a lower-body injury. Leipsic had a strong finish to his season, with two points (one goal) in his last three games and five points (three goals) in his last 10.
At even strength, Leipsic finished the 2018-19 season with a Corsi-for percentage (shots + blocks + misses for versus against) of 46.68%, his second consecutive season coming up short of the 50% mark. He posted a Fenwick-for percentage (shots + misses for versus against) of 46.18% this past season, which was also his second straight of failing to hit 50%. He also created 11 rebound opportunities.
With Brendan Leipsic on the ice at five-on-five, the Los Angeles Kings saw a decrease in shot attempts against within 10 feet of their net relative to the NHL average. Graphics provided by @IneffectiveMath at https://t.co/fxR3jUTvi5 pic.twitter.com/rGIrkDV5nZ
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 2, 2019
Leipsic created 63 scoring chances this past season with 28 of them (44.4%) coming in the high-danger area. He has never been on the ice for more goals for than against, though in each of his three NHL seasons, he’s been on for more chances than chances against. Leipsic’s team had only 40.27% of the scoring chances when he was on the ice and got outscored by 30-25 when he was on the ice. Leipsic drew 13 penalties this past season after drawing seven in the 2017-18 season.
His team’s goaltenders posted a save percentage of .900 when Leipsic was on the ice this past season.
Leipsic earned 136 starts in the offensive zone (38% of his zone starts), 133 (38%) in the defensive zone, and 85 (24%) in the neutral zone last season.
Leipsic comes to Washington with a good amount of NHL experience under his belt, which should benefit him. The offensively-minded Capitals should provide an opportunity for Leipsic to boost his average of .37 points-per-game playing a bottom-six role on two of the worst teams in the league last year.
After nailing “low-risk, high-reward” signings with Dowd, forward Devante Smith-Pelly, and forward Brett Connolly in each of the previous three offseasons, MacLellan opted to pursue that route again by signing Leipsic. Will it pay off the way that the other three did? Only time will tell.
Previous Deeper Looks At The Capitals’ Offseason Acquisitions
By Harrison Brown