Washington Capitals senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to Capitals senior writer Mike Vogel on Tuesday and discussed the new hiring of head coach Peter Laviolette, the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, and Free Agency.
After firing head coach Todd Reirden on August 23, MacLellan told the media that “we need an experienced coach, [one who will] press buttons on some players”, adding that the team is “going to find the best” man for the job. Laviolette was their guy.
“He checks a lot of boxes for us,” MacLellan said about the new head coach who was hired on Tuesday. He praised Laviolette’s 18 years of NHL coaching experience, “track record of accomplishments”, and his ability to motivate players and hold them accountable. MacLellan also believes the team is a “good match” for Laviolette as a head coach.
In MacLellan’s mind, the Capitals were “underachieved” this past season. The organization determined the type of the coach they needed, identified candidates that “satisfied those requirements”, and interviewed them. The Capitals GM said they “tried to do as much homework as they could” on all three candidates. Laviolette was chosen in the end.
MacLellan knew what the internal issues were. “Our mission was to find a guy [who] could correct things that we thought were happy with our team,” he said. They “came up with Peter again.” MacLellan added, “We have a good group of veteran players [who] need to be pushed a little bit and motivated in certain areas. I think he provides that.”
“We feel well-prepared,” MacLellan said about the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, which will be held virtually over two days. Round 1 will take place at 7 PM ET on Tuesday, October 6. Rounds 2-7 will begin at 11:30 AM ET on Wednesday, October 7. The Capitals will have picks in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds.
Contract talks have been “ongoing”. According to MacLellan, the organization had a “good conversation” with captain Alex Ovechkin, who is heading into the final year of his 13-year contract, at the end of the season. He wants both parties to “communicate what they’re thinking and set the table for what could happen next year”.
As far as Free Agency, MacLellan mentioned he is “keeping in contact” with representatives. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk, defensemen Radko Gudas and Brenden Dillon, and goaltender Braden Holtby are the team’s roster unrestricted free agents (UFA’s). They will be free to negotiate with other teams on the aforementioned date unless they are re-signed by the date. Forward Travis Boyd and defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler are restricted free agents (RFA’s) on the roster. Free Agency will open Friday, October 9, at 12 PM ET.
Several prospects in the Capitals organization such as defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, and forward Aliaksei Protas have been loaned to European leagues for development purposes and “opportunities to continue to play”. The Capitals GM noted that whenever the 2020-21 season starts, which is reportedly set to begin on December 1, they will bring those players back for either the AHL or NHL.
By Della Young