The Case For Beck Malenstyn

First and foremost, it needs to be stated. Carl Hagelin has been a significant asset for the Washington Capitals over the last few years. He catches a lot of guff from certain segments of the Capitals fan base, likely because his role on the team and the work he does goes mostly unnoticed.

Hagelin’s play on the fourth line, arguably the Capitals’ best line all of last season, has been solid. The fourth line is tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top line, night in and night out, and they have been very successful in doing just that. The mere notion of messing with the line is one that probably makes Capitals’ head coach Peter Laviolette cringe.

In short, Hagelin has been a valuable asset to the Capitals. However, there are two aspects of Carl Hagelin that require some extra thought. His paycheck and his age. Hagelin, 33, will make $2,750,000 this season and next. In an era of little-to-no fiscal growth within the league, that’s a fairly big price tag for a fourth line winger.

Enter Beck Malenstyn. Beck, a decade younger than Hagelin, will make $750,000 this season and become a restricted free agent next summer. By switching Hgelin for Malenstyn, the Capitals would get younger and generate $2 million in much-needed salary cap space. But can Malenstyn do what Hagelin does? That’s the more important question.

Malenstyn is a different type of player than Hagelin. He’s a 6’-2”, physicial forward, who loves to hit opposing players. In fact he led the team in hits in each of the three preseason games he played in this fall. Hagelin, on the other hand, is a winger who generates problems for the opposing team with his speed.

Hagelin has been a stalwart on the penalty kill for the Caps, but Malenstyn is also very good on the penalty kill. He was a leader on the Hershey Bears’ penalty kill during his last season in the AHL, as the Bears finished the 2019-20 season with the league’s best penalty kill at 87.3%.

Yes, Malenstyn differs from Hagelin with regards to style of play, but it could be argued Malenstyn is a perfect fit with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, and the style of game they play. Malenstyn expanded on his own perception of his game in an interview with NoVa Caps in 2019.

“I think for me, that’s the base of my identity. It may not be the prettiest plays in the world, but getting the puck off the wall, getting right out of the zone, being good on the penalty kill. You know, get on the forecheck, physical. Then from there, I need to develop the offensive side of my game. How can I use that platform to then create offense, create opportunities? I just need to grow that way. Not change the way I play, just develop the way I play and creating more and more as a player.”

Malenstyn plays the game with a relentless intensity. Here are a couple of plays from 2019 that standout to me as good descriptors for Malenstyn’s game. The first, Malenstyn jumps on the ice after a line change, skates straight for the puck, steals the puck and feeds Garrett Pilon for the score. He simply dominates the play.

Here Malenstyn once again takes the puck from the opposition and dishes to an open Steve Whitney for the score.

With the departure of Brenden Dillon and Zdeno Chara, it could be argued that the Capitals lost a significant part of their team “grit” in the offseason. Malenstyn will also drop the gloves.

It’s easy to see why former Bears head coach Spencer Carbery labeled Malenstyn as Herhsey’s Tom Wilson.

It’s not easy to jettison someone with the experience of a Carl Hagelin. He’s too good at what he does. But one can argue that in economic times like these, it may make fiscal sense to make a change. Two million dollars could be used to help address other team shortcomings as the 2021-22 season unfolds.

It won’t be an easy decision, regardless of which way the Capitals decide to go. We could very likely see Malenstyn return to Hershey for one more season, and the fourth line stay the way it is. It’s hard to mess with success.

However, switching Hagelin out for a player 10 years younger, that brings comparable value and more grit to an already gritty fourth line, at a savings of $2 million bucks, just might be the right move at this point in time.

We will find out in the next day or two which way Brian MacLellan and the Capitals decide to go. All NHL teams need to have their final 23-man rosters set by 5:00 PM on Monday.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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14 Responses to The Case For Beck Malenstyn

  1. Anonymous says:

    I do like Hags but would prefer to move his salary to the blueline

    • Anonymous says:

      Spot on! You can love the player but cannot overlook the fact that we can’t afford to pay that much for his role with a flat cap and other needs. Should have been resolved in the off-season when we could have upgraded the D. To late now.

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  3. CapsfaninDallas says:

    Wouldn’t it closer to a million in savings since you can’t bury his full cap in Hershey?

  4. novafyre says:

    Would he have to clear waivers? We’ve already lost Axel.

    Anything that would help Wilson move away from his enforcer role into a more scoring role would be welcome. Tom must stay out of the penalty box this year. If Beck would help this, go for it.

  5. Kit Troyer says:

    Malenstyn was excellent in the preseason. In my view he earned a sweater. And that’s just based on play, not the economics, which you do a good job of explaining.
    In other news, I hope Ovie’s not out for long 🙁

  6. Anonymous says:

    Malenstyn is ready. Save 2 mill, replace with a player 10 years younger. Just makes sense.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think there’s a case to be made for having one more season with Hagelin. Becks very good, but Hagelins speed is a very important part of that lines success, more than is given credit for- it’s hard to make plays when Hagelins barking at your heels non stop-

    IF one were to do that, you would want Beck to spend his last season in the AHL working on his shooting- I love the game he plays, and he does it very well- but the Dowd-Hathaway line desperately need a dangerous finisher. I don’t consider them to be a shutdown line, I consider them to be the “bad shots on goal line”
    That’s a double edged sword- because their shots are terrible off great chances, but the funny thing about that is the other team ain’t making any shots on our net. They are such a dominant line and they generate so many chances- if Mal can use the time to work on his shot we can put him into that line next season far easier to greater effect. Hagelins contract looks better with only one year on it and easier to trade, he’ll be getting closer to getting too old too.

    These guys can be point per game with a finisher- Its worth seeing if we can turn Mal into that guy before we bring him up, and reward Hagelin’s incredible play last season. It’s a big contract- but honestly, I kinda think Dowd and Hath are worth that too. They’re basically our first line for defence- that has value.

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