Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan told the media via teleconference on Monday morning that he is talking to head athletic trainer Jason Serbus every day regarding the health of the team’s players during the NHL Pause. The Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche each have two players who have tested positive for the coronavirus. He said that they are trying to be prepared for “as much as possible” for anything that comes, but no players on the Capitals have shown symptoms for the virus so far.
“Yeah, I do [miss hockey]. It’s amazing how your life just comes to a halt. All the things you do day to day, it doesn’t matter anymore. There’s a big picture, there’s a reality going on. All of a sudden you have time, you’re doing stuff around the house, you’re touching base with family more. It’s a change in lifestyle, and a change probably in priorities,” MacLellan said.
While the NHL, NHLPA, owners, and general managers are all trying to figure out a fair format for once the league is able to return if they are able too, MacLellan thought that it would be fair if all teams played the same number of regular-season games, both home and away, and make a final decision after that.
He said that depending on the coronavirus, “there is a possibility of playing [at the] end of June, July, [and] August.” The NHL asked teams for arena availability dates in August last week.
MacLellan told the media that he would “ideally” want the Capitals to play a few regular-season games before jumping into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs but “I’d also be okay with jumping into [it].” The Capitals were 6-8-3 since February 1 before the league paused, the fifth-worst record in the NHL and the worst among teams currently occupying a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in that span. “I think for the benefit of the quality of play and players’ health, ideally you’re playing a few games before you enter the [Stanley Cup] playoffs,” he said.
He thought that the uncertainty regarding the offseason and what that could mean on discussions with free agents have to be put on hold. The initial salary cap projection for next season of around $84 million has dropped since the league paused on March 12. Goaltender Braden Holtby, defenseman Radko Gudas, defenseman Brendan Dillon, and forward Ilya Kovalchuk are all eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, the same day that forwards Travis Boyd, Brendan Leipsic, and defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler will all be eligible for restricted free agency. MacLellan said that the NHL has mentioned that expiring contracts could be extended through August as opposed to June 30 when they normally do.
MacLellan said that the team originally wanted their players to stay in the Washington area but it has gotten to the point where it makes sense to let them go where they want and self-quarantine there. 14 have opted to stay while nine have gone home. MacLellan told the media that he is at home in Minneapolis, Minnesota to be closer to his two daughters and grandchildren. “Trying to get through it together,” he said.
When discussing the challenge of keeping the players in shape during the pause, MacLellan told the media that they will be off for “at least two months.” He added that the team is trying to send players “creative ways to work out” during the pause.
He added that he would “like to see the [Stanley] Cup awarded,” but knows that the Capitals are living day-to-day and that family comes first.
On possibly losing out on another season of captain Alex Ovechkin, MacLellan said “He’s accomplishing things that are pretty incredible, regardless of whether we play another 10, 15 games or not….I don’t think it makes sense to dwell on that type of thing.” The 34-year-old entered the pause tied for the league lead in goals (48) with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak.
By Harrison Brown