If you’ve followed NoVa Caps for any decent amount of time, you know we call it like we see it, and will criticize when criticism is necessary. This includes any questionable moves made by Capitals General Manager Brian McLellan. We’ve done our fair share of critical analysis on him.
However, “call it like you see it” also includes giving credit where credit is due, and so far this season, a series of steps/moves made by MacLellan this past offseason appears to have hit the bullseye. All four of the moves are related to upgrading the Capitals defense, all while reducing the overall hit to the Capitals bottom line (salary cap). Upgrading with less money? A very tall order by any means.
1. Not Re-signing Zdeno Chara – Chara became a fan favorite during his short time in in the district, and his play at times was decent. He also brought a good amount of grit and physicality to the Capitals’ blueline. However, the Capitals decided to pass on re-signing the 44-year old this past offseason, even when there was a perceived need on the roster. Chara would sign with the Islanders and early reports are that it’s not going well for Chara on the Island, as maybe his time in the league may finally be drawing to a close.
2. Trading Brenden Dillon – Dillon was also somewhat of a fan favorite, and a good teammate when he was in Washington. He, like Chara, brought a good amount of grit to the Capitals, something Brian MacLellan has stated several times is a necessity when the playoffs begin. Trading Dillon to Winnipeg for two second draft picks is looking like a genius move at this point. The move also saved the Capitals $3.9 million in cap space. Yes, it’s early in the season, but so far, the Capitals have not missed Dillon on the backend, and have certainly needed the extra cash.
3. Elevating Trevor van Riemsdyk To Everyday Starter – this move seemed fairly obvious by the end of last season. The Capitals quickly signed “TVR” to a deal in the middle of last season, possibly projecting their future plans for him on the backend. TVR and Justin Schultz have been excellent so far this season, and are arguably the Capitals best pairing.
4. Elevating Martin Fehervary To Everyday Starter – Maclellan made it clear at the end of last season that he and the Capitals were looking for Fehervary to step into a starters role this season. Fehervary was ready, and the step seemed obvious, but you never truly know what you have until the player plays in games. Fehervary has been solid in the Capitals first eight games, playing top pair minutes with John Carlson. The risk was there, but it seems to be paying off.
IT’S STILL EARLY, BUT…
We are only eight games into the season, but the four aforementioned moves seemed to have been exactly what the Capitals needed to do to resurrect their blueline. The defense lost a decent amount of grit and physicality with the departure of Dillon and Chara, but they have been replaced with speed and agility. As for how the Capitals would do in the postseason, where grit and physicality are at a higher premium, that remains to be seen.
MacLellan gets top marks for this series of moves. The defense has improved, all while reducing the the team’s salary demands. The only real question would be could these moves have been made at the beginning of last season?
By Jon Sorensen