Washington Capitals senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to the media on a Zoom call Friday morning. He discussed that business decisions and contract extensions will wait until after the playoffs, defenseman John Carlson expected to skate for Saturday’s practice, and how goaltender Vitek Vanecek earned his place to be in net.
MacLellan praised the Capitals’ training and equipment staff for their hard work preparing for the resume of play in Toronto. “It was a challenge to get us here,” he said adding the NHL did a “great job” organizing the Return to Play Plan. “It’s gone pretty smoothly so far.”
On captain Alex Ovechkin, who is in the final year of his 13-year contract, MacLellan said they are waiting until after the playoffs to discuss a possible contract extension. He wants to “assess where we are at the end of the year and decide then”. MacLellan noted Ovechkin had a “very good camp” and the 34-year-old Russian is “serious” and focused on winning another championship. Ovechkin scored two goals and picked up an assist during Wednesday’s 3-2 exhibition victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
On July 25, the Capitals announced that goaltender Ilya Samsonov sustained an injury prior to training camp and will not travel with the team to Toronto. The 23-year old is staying local to continue undergoing treatment. According to MacLellan, Samsonov had an off-ice injury in Russia during the league pause and he did not pass his physical upon return. The Capitals expect Samsonov to be ready for the 2020-21 season.
Sport Express is reporting Samsonov is dealing with a pinched nerve; however, the NHL and coaches cannot disclose any information regarding player injuries or illnesses during the 2020 playoffs to protect a player’s medical privacy.
Meanwhile, MacLellan said he believes Carlson should be able to skate for Saturday’s practice after undergoing some treatments today and expects him to be ready for the start of the round-robin. Carlson missed Thursday’s practice. MacLellan is “not going to put him [Carlson] in a situation” that would put him at risk or affect his performance.
The 30-year-old left Wednesday’s game after crashing into the boards in the third period with a Hurricanes skater. His legs got tangled in his skates but skated off, meaning that he was taken off likely for precautionary reasons. Carlson was able to make it down the tunnel on his own but missed over half of the period. On injuries overall, the general manager explained it’s “what happens especially early”. “Teams are going to have to work through it,” he said. The impact will “test your depth” as a team.
Vanecek played the final 20 minutes in the net during the exhibition game against the Hurricanes. MacLellan complimented the 24-year-old Czech saying he “earned the chance to play some games” after working hard with the AHL’s Hershey Bears during the regular season. Vanecek “looked confident and looked aggressive” on Wednesday and “made a great showing”, according to MacLellan.
As mentioned, business decisions will wait until after the playoffs. MacLellan has talked to defenseman Brenden Dillon‘s representatives but all potential contracts extensions will be held off until the end of the season. During training camp on July 14, Dillon said, “I’m happy with being a Washington Capital.” He likes the fit with the Capitals and has felt that way since day one when the trade with San Jose Sharks occurred. Dillon is fond of the system and overall chemistry the team has and praised training camp for getting “more acclimated” with the Capitals. “We’ll see if we can work something out,” MacLellan said.
The 2020-21 season is reportedly set to begin on December 1. MacLellan said the Capitals organization is trying to “prepare as best as possible” for potential start dates and scenarios such as limited fans or even no fans. He said everything “depends on the development and healing of virus.”
By Della Young