During the Capitals’ run to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018, arguably no player was seen as more of a “hero” in the team’s 24-game playoff run than right wing Devante Smith-Pelly, who, on a one-year, $650,000 contract, scored seven goals to help the team capture Lord Stanley’s prized chalice. However, after re-signing for one year and for $1 million, Smith-Pelly struggled mightily last season, recording only eight points in 54 games, which resulted in a demotion to the AHL. Despite getting another shot during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Smith-Pelly failed to rekindle his 2018 magic and is now an unrestricted free agent. However, in a recent interview with Sportsnet, two of his former Capitals teammates believe he will get another chance at the NHL.
At the BioSteel training camp in Toronto, two of Smith-Pelly’s teammates on that Cup-winning team, former Capital Brett Connolly and right wing Tom Wilson expressed confidence that their fellow right wing, who has been training with BioSteel founder Matt Nichol this summer, will get another opportunity at an NHL role.
Connolly, who revitalized his career by signing with the Caps, credited Smith-Pelly as the reason he owns a Stanley Cup ring, saying:
“He’s probably the reason why I have a ring … there’s no question, with that goal he scored in Game 5, and all the goals he scored all the way through. That’s something that’ll never be taken away from him.”
Wilson, who has also been training at BioSteel alongside Smith-Pelly, said that his former Washington teammate hasn’t let his situation faze him, despite the roller-coaster season he had:
“He’s the same guy. He’s in a situation where you’ve got to put your head down and hope for an opportunity. We had an amazing time together in Washington. We won together, so we’ll always have that bond. I hope the best for him.”
Both Wilson and Connolly, who recently expressed their support for fellow and former Capitals teammate (respectively) Evgeny Kuznetsov, believe whichever team takes a flier on Smith-Pelly won’t be disappointed with the player they get. Connolly expressed confidence that Smith-Pelly will be able to conjure up the level of play he showed during the 2018 run, saying,
“It was tough. It’s a tough business. Someone’s going to give him something. Whoever does end up signing him, they’re going to get the best Devante Smith-Pelly that Washington got a couple years back…He knows this is a big training camp and a big year,” he said. “He’s a confident person and believes in himself. He’s just being patient. There’s a team that’s going to get a really good player at a really good price”.
Nichol also believes that Smith-Pelly will bounce back after a tough season after a full summer of working with him:
“He had an extremely short off-season (after winning the Cup). We’ve had 10 guys in 10 years win the Cup at our gym, which is cool, but it’s a struggle. Even if you have the best intentions, you come back home and you have all sorts of family and friends demanding your time. Last summer was a learning process. This summer he was very dialled in.”
In 129 regular season games with the Capitals, Smith-Pelly recorded 24 points.
By Michael Fleetwood
Original interview from Sportsnet HERE