Grades For Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan’s Past Trade Deadline Moves

Photo: Getty Images

With the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline just under a month away, NoVa Caps reviews Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan’s first seven trade deadlines on the job. 

2015 SEASON

Tim Gleason
The first trade MacLellan made during the season was a trade acquiring Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason in exchange for pending UFA defenseman Jack Hillen and a 2015 fourth round pick. In 17 games, Gleason had two assists and 11 PIM. Gleason was brought in to establish the physical presence the Capitals thought they needed to get past the New York Islanders and Rangers that season. Gleason mostly played on the 3rd pairing with Mike Green and added more depth to the backend. They already signed Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen the previous offseason.  Gleason was held scoreless in the playoffs and would retire from hockey following his stint with the Capitals.

Gleason and Hillen were probably a wash offensively and the added physicality didn’t hurt the Capitals down the stretch.

Grade: C-

Curtis Glencross
The Capitals acquired Calgary left winger Curtis Glencross for a 2nd and 3rd round pick, a move that was controversial at the time.  Glencross got a hot start for Washington, scoring 4 goals in his first 5 games as a Capital. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of his time in D.C.  He finished the year with 4 goals and 7 points in 18 regular season games. His lone playoff goal came in a 2-1 game loss in the 2nd round series against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning New York Rangers. Glencross mostly played in the bottom six with Jay Beagle and Eric Fehr. Like Gleason, Glencross would retire from hockey following his brief stint with the Capitals.

A seconnd and third round pick proved to be an expensive bet on a player that didn’t work out.

Grade: D-

2016 SEASON

Daniel Winnik
Daniel Winnik was brought in at the trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Brooks Laich, Connor Carrick, and a 2016 second-round pick. Washington also acquired a 2016 fifth-round pick. This may have been MacLellan’s best in-season move to date, because Laich was in the midst of a season in which he struggled despite a $4.5 million cap hit. Laich scored just one goal and two points in 60 games that year. Winnik scored two goals and three points in the last 20 contests of that season, but he amped up his output last year tallying 12 goals and 25 points in 72 games. He played very well with the Capitals, contributing nicely on the penalty kill, scoring two short-handed goals. He made the Caps fourth line one of the most impressive in the league this past season.

Winnik proved to be an upgrade over the struggling Laich who never returned to form after an injury.  Most importantly, the trade freed up much-needed cap space the next year since Winnik’s contract was a much more affordable $2 million a year.

Grade: A+

Mike Weber
Weber was brought into Washington from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2017 Draft. Weber was brought in for a physical presence, but he finished with a -1 rating in 10 games. He only played two games in the playoffs, but he made a costly turnover in Game 4 against the Penguins in overtime that cost the Capitals the game and, perhaps, the series. The trade was part of the reason why the Caps didn’t have any picks in the first three rounds this year.

Despite the seemingly reasonable cost at the time to acquire an extra defenseman, Weber was a bust.

Grade: F

2017 SEASON

Kevin Shattenkirk
MacLellan brought in All-Star defenseman Shattenkirk to help the Capitals try to break the playoff curse. The Capitals acquired Shattenkirk and former Capitals prospect goalie Pheonix Copley from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Zach Sanford, a 2017 1st round pick, Brad Malone, and conditional picks. Shattenkirk never seemed to gel in his short time with the Capitals. He was not strong defensively, earning a +4 in the regular season and a -4 in the playoffs. Offensively, he scored two goals and 14 points in 19 games in the regular season and added a goal and six points in 13 playoff games.

While Shattenkirk didn’t prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Capitals, it’s important to consider the trade in context. Shattenkirk was the most sought-after player approaching the trade deadline and Capitals fans were terrified that Pittsburgh might land him. MacLellan deftly blocked the Penguins from grabbing Shattenkirk, but the season had a familiar ending for the snake-bit Capitals.

Shattenkirk signed a four-year contract with the New York Rangers after the season.

Grade: C-

2018

Michal Kempny

In need of defensive depth, the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the better of Washington’s two third-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Unlike MacLellan’s past in-season moves for a defenseman at the trade deadline, he approached this year’s deadline looking for the right fit rather than adding a physical defenseman or the biggest name on the market. His approach worked as Kempny proved to be one of the best deals at the deadline even though it did not involve a big name.

Most people projected Kempny to be a third-pairing defenseman since he was in and out of the lineup with a non-playoff team, but he was slotted in with Carlson on the second pair and fit perfectly. He tallied two goals, three assists, and a +1 rating in 22 regular season games with the Capitals and had two goals, five points, and a +1 in 24 playoff games.

Kempny was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and the team ended up re-signing him to a four-year contract worth $10 million ($2.5 million cap hit). He once again thrived playing on the top defensive pairing and has continued to progress as he finished the 2018-19 season tied for 17th in the NHL with a +2r rating, the first of his contract.

However, injuries have derailed the 31-year-old’s injuries since as he missed seven months after undergoing hamstring surgery in 2019 and the entire 2020-21 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles.

Kempny got off to a solid start in the 2019-20 season with three goals and 11 points in his first 11 games but struggled defensively and his offensive production dropped after that. He was ultimately a healthy scratch in the postseason.

After a rough training camp this season, the 31-year-old got an opportunity when Dennis Cholowski, Martin Fehervary, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk were all out due to COVID-19 protocol and did not look out of place with a goal, two points, a -1 rating, a 49.79% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 49.74% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 50.83% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in eight games.

While the contract does not look great now, it led to a Stanley Cup, Kempny fit in seemlessly before surgeries derailed his NHL career, and it will be over in three-to-four months.

Grade: A

Jakub Jerabek

The Capitals made an effort to upgrade their defensive depth even more when they traded a fifth-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens with Jerabek.

Jerabek had a goal and four points in 11 games with the Capitals, equalling his offensive output in his 25 games with the Canadiens. Though he collected a -1 rating, Jerabek averaged 13:57 of ice time and tallied 14 hits with the Capitals and played well most of the time. Jerabek played primarily on the third pair with Orpik when in the lineup. He rotated in and out with rookie defenseman Christian Djoos and did not play in the playoffs after Game 2 of the First Round.

Jerabek was a solid pick up as an insurance policy. He signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers just prior to training camp the following season.

Grade: B

2019

Carl Hagelin

Looking for another depth forward who could help a struggling penalty kill that was 22nd in the NHL with an efficiency of 78.4% at the time of the trade, the Capitals acquired a speedy forward in Hagelin. A conditional sixth-round pick in 2019 was part of the deal but did not go to Los Angeles since the Capitals failed to reach the Eastern Conference Final.

After posting two goals, eight points, and an even rating in 38 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kings at the time of the trade, Hagelin beat all of those numbers in just 20 games with the Capitals, recording three goals, 11 points, and a +7 rating. He added a point — an assist — in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games. The 30-year old averaged 2:21 of ice-time on the penalty kill, a team-high among forwards. Following the trade, the Capitals improved to 80% on the penalty kill and their 88% efficiency with a man down during the postseason remains the third-best among all 16 teams. His 2:56 of ice-time on the penalty kill during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was second among Capitals forwards behind only center Lars Eller (3:19). His nine takeaways in the postseason were second on the Capitals behind Eller (11) and 15 hits were tied with Smith-Pelly and defenseman Dmitry Orlov for the fifth-most.

The acquisition, which cost just a third-round pick, bolstered the Capitals forward depth and was a remedy for an ailing penalty kill just before he got here. Hagelin was promoted to the top-six when Oshie went down with a broken collarbone and missed the final three games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the second straight year, MacLellan nailed the trade deadline.

After a slow start as he recorded just seven assists and a +5 rating in his first 30 games of the first full season with the Capitals that included 11 games missed due to a lower-body injury, the 32-year-old finished with eight goals, 18 points, and a +7 rating in his final 31 games. played a vital role on the Capitals’ penalty kill, averaging 2:55 per game (the most among the team’s forwards and second on the team behind defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler: 3:11), which ranked sixth in the NHL with an 82.6% penalty-killing rate. 

In 2020-21, Hagelin was part of the team’s shut-down line and played a critical role on a penalty kill that ranked fifth in the NHL with an 84% efficiency, where he averaged 2:34 per game (most among Capitals’ forwards). He recorded six goals, 16 points, and a +7 rating in 56 games.

This season, the 33-year-old has taken a step back but has also had some horrible puck luck with three goals and 14 points in 51 games (but has a goal and seven points in his past eight games). Hagelin has also seen his penalty kill usage go down from 2:48 last season (which led Capitals forwards) to 1:52 (eight seconds behind Dowd for the lead among Washington forwards).

While Hagelin has struggled at times this season, the intent is to grade the acquisition and not the contract extension that followed after. Though, the fact that he got one certainly helps this grade.

Grade: B+

Nick Jensen

Looking for more help on the penalty kill, the Capitals acquired the best defensive defenseman on the trade market and extended him for four years shortly after. Like the contract Kempny got last summer, Jensen’s was worth $10 million ($2.5 million cap hit).

Jensen recorded five assists and a +3 rating in 20 regular-season games after the trade but no points and a -2 rating in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games. Defensively, Jensen posted 26 blocked shots and 21 hits while playing an average of 15:32 of ice-time per game next to Orpik on the third-pair, including 1:27 on the penalty-kill. After Kempny went down for the remainder of the season, Jensen got more time on the top-pair with Carlson. Jensen struggled in the team’s seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he recorded no points, a -2 rating, a 43.32% Corsi-for percentage, and a 39.23% expected goals-for percentage.

While the deal seemed expensive when it was announced, the fact that Jensen’s contract was extended and gave the Capitals more depth when Kempny went down made it a necessary one.

Bowey has bounced around and has been on three teams since the Capitals parted with him. He recorded three goals and 17 points in 53 games in his first full season with the Red Wings but tallied a -16 rating and was not tendered a qualifying offer as a pending restricted free agent. He tallied an assist and a +1 rating in two games with the Chicago Blackhawks this season before getting dealt to the Vancouver Canucks, where he did not play a game despite numerous regulars out due to COVID-19.

Jensen had a rough start to his first full season in Washington  Jensen struggled for most of the 2019-20 season as he was a team-worst -7 rating and had only four assists through 54 games until he was scratched for the first time as a Capital. He improved after that, equalling his point output from the first 54 games of the season in just 14 games and led the Capitals with a +8 rating. Jensen had an admirable 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he posted a 54.64% Corsi-for percentage.

Jensen improved further in 2020-21 where he tallied two goals, 14 points, a +5 rating. He recorded a 50.24% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 53.58% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.5% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage while averaging 17:18 per game, including 2:38 on the penalty kill in 53 games. After sitting three games as a healthy scratch at the end of January, Jensen never gave up his spot when he earned his spot in the lineup back.

The 32-year-old has built on a breakout season this year with four goals (tied with his career-high), 12 points, a team-leading +24 rating (tied for 18th in the NHL), a 49.7% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 49.96% expected goals-for percentage in 47 games this season. Though, his play has dropped off since returning from COVID-19. He has averaged 19:11 per game (fourth among Capitals defensemen), including 2:22 on the penalty kill (second).

Since he signed a contract extension immediately after the trade, it is fair to assess his performance during his full tenure in Washington as part of the deal evaluation.

Grade: B+

2020

Brenden Dillon

The Capitals acquired the 30-year-old defenseman in a trade with the San Jose Sharks to bolster a defense that gave up an average of 3.44 goals-per-game, the most of the 24 teams that participated in the NHL’s return-to-play plan, since just before Christmas.

While giving the Capitals a more formidable top-four defensive unit, Dillon recorded no points, a -2 rating, a 51.12% Corsi-for percentage, and a 54.44% expected goals-for percentage in 10 regular-season games with the Capitals and fit in well, giving the backend some bite to it. He averaged 20:02 worth of ice-time per game with the Capitals, including 2:40 on the penalty kill.

After signing a four-year contract extension, Dillon tallied two goals, 19 points, and a +15 rating while averaging 18:57 per game (including 1:47 while shorthanded) in 56 games. Dillon recorded a 50.40% Corsi-for percentage, a 51.56% expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.97% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five.

Dillon was traded to the Winnipeg Jets after just a season into his extension for two second-round picks (one of which was traded to the Seattle Kraken for goaltender Vitek Vanecek a week later), a better return than the price the Capitals had to pay the Sharks to acquire him.

Grade: B

Ilya Kovalchuk

The Capitals made the deal to add more scoring punch to the bottom-six forward group.

Even though he put up one goal and a respectable four points in seven regular-season games with the Capitals, he only recorded one assist in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games, arguably a disappointment.

Kovalchuk earned a 54.6% Corsi-for percentage and a 60.92% expected goals-for percentage with the Capitals. He averaged 1:41 on the power-play.
Kovalchuk signed with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk after the season.

If the Capitals wanted to add more scoring punch, perhaps they should have inserted center Travis Boyd, who recorded 10 points in only 24 regular-season games, into the lineup more. Instead, they gave up a third-round pick for a player that did not work out for them. Looking back on it, it was a bit of a hefty price to pay and unnecessary but he averaged more than half a point-per-game and did not have bad underlying stats.

Grade: C-

Daniel Sprong

With defenseman Christian Djoos struggling to regain his form following thigh surgery from the previous season and him stuck in the AHL, the Capitals made a one-for-one swap with the Anaheim Ducks for Sprong in a deal that has looked great for them.

Sprong was one of the Capitals’ most consistent goal scorers all of last season after not playing a game during the 2019-20 season with the team.

Meanwhile, Djoos recorded one goal, three points, and a +2 rating in nine games with the Ducks at the conclusion of last season but was lost via waivers to the Red Wings on January 9 and played this season in Detroit. EV Zug of the Swiss National League signed Djoos to a two-year deal on May 12.

The 24-year-old inserted some much-needed scoring depth into the lineup despite making league minimum this past season and next. Sprong finished with 13 goals (tied forward Tom Wilson for fifth on the team and came close to averaging half a point-per-game (20 in 42) despite being in and out of the lineup.

His 20 points set a career-high while his 13 goals were one short of his career-best set in 47 games in 2018-19 with the Anaheim Ducks. Sprong’s 1.59 goals-per-60 minutes this season was tied for 13th best in the NHL.

Sprong was in and out of the lineup at times last season due to the Capitals’ strong forward depth and his lack of defensive play but the team got excellent contract value out of Sprong.

Basically, the Capitals inserted one of the NHL’s leaders in goals-per-60 who is young and carries just a $725,000 cap hit for free.

This season, Sprong has tallied eight goals and 13 points in 42 games but has struggled at times, especially on the defensive side. Head coach Peter Laviolette regularly scratches Sprong because of his poor two-way game.

Grade: A

2021

Jonas Siegenthaler

After Siegenthaler requested a trade to get more playing time, the Capitals dealt him to the Devils to satisfy his wish and make more room under the NHL salary cap with the trade deadline a day away.

With Chara anchoring the third-pair last season and Martin Fehervary on the way, it made sense to part with Siegenthaler and the Capitals got back a good draft pick in return.

After finishing last season with a 51.21% Corsi-for percentage and a 55.51% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five in eight games with the Devils, Siegenthaler has thrived this season with a 52.28% Corsi-for percentage and a 53.45% expected goals-for percentage at five-on-five in 51 games. He has averaged 20:52 per game (fourth among Devils defensemen), including 2:25 on the penalty kill (third), this season.

Grade: C-

Michael Raffl

The Capitals acquired the 33-year-old right-wing for more forward depth in the bottom-six for the Vegas Golden Knights’ 2021 fifth-round pick. After missing the first four games due to an upper-body injury at the beginning of his Capitals’ tenure, Raffl recorded one goal, three points, and a +1 rating in 10 games with the team and played well in a bottom-six role.

With two fifth-round picks this year and since the Capitals parted with what is likely to be the lower one, that makes the deal better for them.

Raffl signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Stars as an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Grade: A-

Anthony Mantha

With a waning Stanley Cup window, the Capitals went “all-in” by acquiring Mantha but it came at a steep cost by trading Vrana and two high draft picks. While it is understandable they had to give up a second to offload Panik’s $2.75 cap hit for the next two seasons after this one, MacLellan overpaid by parting with a first-round pick in addition to Vrana. Though, there is less certainty to the value of a first-round pick this year due to shortened seasons and less ability to travel and scout.

Mantha, 26, recorded four goals, eight points, and an even rating in 14 games after the trade and became the first Capital ever to score four goals in his first four games with the team. While his production dipped after that with just three assists in 10 games at the end of the season, that was not because of his play or a lack of opportunities.

The Capitals were willing to part with Vrana, 25, because he was in the midst of a down season as he recorded 11 goals and 25 points in 39 games and did not seem to fit into Laviolette’s system. MacLellan saw a frustrated player in Vrana and wanted to satisfy his wish of more responsibility and more cost certainty with Mantha under contract for three more seasons after this season and Vrana set to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He also had issues under both Reirden and Barry Trotz during their tenures in Washington and was scratched for two games prior to the trade. In 11 games after the trade, Vrana recorded eight goals and 11 points.

Panik recorded a goal and four points in 12 games following the trade to Detroit after recording three goals and nine points in 36 games with the Capitals. He was also scratched for five of his last seven games with the team before getting dealt.

The 27-year-old has not played since November 4 as he underwent shoulder surgery the following day. Mantha earned two goals and six points in 10 games, not bad but not the type of production the Capitals gave up Vrana and a first-round pick for last season. Luckily, Mantha will have a chance to prove himself once he returns.

Vrana has yet to play this season after undergoing shoulder surgery during training camp.

While the Capitals gave up a lot to acquire Mantha, this is a trade that will have its outcome determined with more time. With Mantha and Vrana expected to remain in their new homes for the long haul, more evidence is needed before declaring a winner and loser of this trade but the Red Wings appear to be winning it so far.

The first-round pick that the Capitals traded was used by the Dallas Stars on center Wyatt Johnston, who has 28 goals and 82 points in 44 OHL games this season.

Grade: Incomplete (but C right now)

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Grades For Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan’s Past Trade Deadline Moves

  1. Anonymous says:

    Weber, sheesh. He was benched for the playoffs. That was a complete swing and a miss. Glenncross was also a whiff, in my opening noon.

  2. Jon Sorensen says:

    Siegenthaler is turning out to be a stud for New Jersey. That’s a failure for both Lavi and GMBM. He needed to play. Instead we chose Chara over him, which is a complete fumble.

  3. novafyre says:

    Siggy isn’t the only former Cap who did very well after leaving. But that doesn’t mean he would have worked out as well if he had stayed. Different coaches, different styles and schemes, different teammates. A square peg in a round hole isn’t always a bad peg. It could be a great peg just in a bad location. But in that original spot, it would always be wrong.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Winnik 0 goals in 63 games and -4 yuck
    Panik and Hagelin signing cost us Burakovsky yuck

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.