Washington Capitals‘ senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to the media this afternoon following the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline that brought defenseman Brenden Dillon and forward Ilya Kovalchuk to the District.
He was immediately asked about the Kovalchuk trade. “I think he’s a good fit for what we need,” MacLellan said. “He’s an established player…so many good reports and viewings of what he did in Montréal.”
MacLellan believes Kovalchuk can bring a strong offensive presence and playmaking. “So many good things have been said about him on and off the ice in Montréal that we basically thought it was a no-brainer to add him.”
It’s an “option” to put Kovalchuk on one of the power-play units. MacLellan said, “The good thing about the acquisition is we can move him around.” He would likely jump on the second power-play unit, but MacLellan praised Kovalchuk for his versatility if a change is needed and that flexibility for the coaches to use in different areas.
“I’d probably start him third line, right-wing,” MacLellan said in reference to where could see Kovalchuk in the lineup. Kovalchuk will bring depth to the bottom-six. “Start him there, see how it goes, and we can move him around.”
Kovalchuk and captain Alex Ovechkin know each very well and even caught up over the holidays. The two Russian players had talked beforehand about possibly playing together. MacLellan noted Ovechkin had a “mature attitude” about the situation. “If it makes sense, I’d like it to happen. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not meant to be.”
“We’re satisfied where we’re at right now,” MacLellan said. The acquisitions are going to make the team “better, more well-rounded, and deeper”.
He likes Dillon and has been happy with the defenseman’s performances, calling the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday a “great” one for Dillon. “He’s added physicality, good puck movement, and seems to be fit in well so far.”
It has been a crazy last week with trades and acquisitions all over the league. MacLellan commented that the Metropolitan Division has been “pretty active”. “There’s a lot of good teams in the Metro and we’re all pretty close talent-wise.”
He called the division “still close of only better teams” after Monday’s busy Trade Deadline. “I think everyone did a good job in our division and it’s going to be hard to get out of it.” Notable Metro trades include the New York Islanders acquiring center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators, the Carolina Hurricanes acquiring center Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers, defensemen Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils, and Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers and the Penguins acquiring forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks and forwards Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues from the Buffalo Sabres.
The Capitals have been in a frustrating and challenging slump for weeks now. “You see a lot of improvements in that game,” MacLellan said regarding Sunday’s 5-3 victory over Pittsburgh. He added that the team has been “sliding lately” with their records and habits.
“We’re trending in the right direction, but I still think we’ve got ways to go to be playing the right way.”
You can watch the full press conference here:
By Della Young