“I’d Say We’re Not As Aggressive As We Normally Are, It’d Have to Make Sense”: Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan Speaks To the Media Ahead of the Trade Deadline

On Wednesday, Washington Capitals General Manager and Senior Vice President Brian MacLellan spoke to the media ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, which is on Monday, March 21 at 3:00 P.M. ET. He discussed a wide variety of topics, including the team’s plans for the deadline, the team’s support of Alex Ovechkin, and more.

During Tuesday’s practice, forward Carl Hagelin suffered what The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell reported was a “serious eye injury” for which Hagelin underwent surgery. Hagelin is a key player on the team’s fourth-line.

“It’s a serious eye injury, I don’t know that we know the full extent of it yet. He’s had a meeting here this afternoon with different eye doctors. It’s to-be-determined what the next steps are here for him. The vision part is the biggest concern. We were really worried last night, I don’t know sort of positive news the examination went in the right direction, but still to be determined what the next steps are and what effect it will have on him. We’ll figure out the best solution to put on the line. I’ll get with [Capitals Head Coach Peter Laviolette] Peter here in the next day and we’ll make a decision whether we want to call up someone or use a player we have, obviously he’s a big part of our PK, he’s one of the best PKers in the league.

Top-six forward Anthony Mantha has missed most of the regular season after undergoing shoulder surgery in November, and was not ruled out for tomorrow’s game by Laviolette. The 27-year old was acquired last season from the Detroit Red Wings.

“I think the doctor and Jason Serbus had a meeting this afternoon to determine if tomorrow’s the one he goes to or we need a few more days. [Regarding moving someone off to make cap space] We have some injury situations here that need to be resolved so that would create some room”.

“It’s frustrating, disappointing. I think the first part of the year [I] really liked what we were doing. Liked our defense, liked the goaltending, liked everything about our game…I don’t know how we got out of sync. The team game sorta got out of sync with guys going in and out of the lineup…and then we kinda lost our rhythm, lost our way. I think there are a number of different things that have gone on…power play’s hurt us through a stretch here. It’s taken a lot of momentum away—hasn’t won games for us. Recent trends though, I think have been positive. We’re scoring some goals, chance rates are up, I think the coaches have emphasized a few different things about faster pace, more net-front presence..so I think that’s helped out a lot. Still concerned about shorthanded goals, shorthanded opportunities especially”.

The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is set for March 21 this season. MacLellan has been active at past deadlines, adding depth and key components to bolster the team’s chances of a long postseason run.

“I mean we have two, inexperienced goalies. Both of them have shown glimpses of what they can do. Unfortunately I think we had Vanecek in a really good spot, and then he got hurt and probably missed too much time. So I guess we have to see where he’s at. I think probably overall,  Save Percentage has probably been average 5-on-5, 5-on-4 a little bit below-average. The concern for me is sometimes the goals, the timing of the goals, game-situation goals, that some veteran guys would tighten up and make the save. It’s not the overall Save Percentage, it’s when and how the goals happen, I think that’s another thing that can zap momentum from your time. We’re going to make calls and see if something makes sense, but overall we have two pretty good goalies that are still finding their way in the league”.

While the Capitals were reported to have inquired around about veteran netminding earlier this season, the team has stuck with their in-house options thus far.

“I mean the difficult situation I think is it’s got to be an obvious upgrade for us to make sense, or otherwise we’d go with our guys. I don’t know there’s that many guys out there that are that quality. I’d say my mindset is we’re not as aggressive as we normally are, it’d have to make sense…I’d be less inclined to trade prospects because they’re going to be playing here sooner than later”.

“I am [happy with the team’s defensemen]. I think we have good depth this year. Irwin’s [Matt Irwin] done a good job, [Michal] Kempny’s done a good job, we’ve got two young guys, [Lucas] Johansen and [Alex] Alexeyev in Hershey we can call up”.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a widespread effect around the world, including the NHL and other hockey leagues. Russian players such as Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (for his past support of Russian President Vladimir Putin) have faced backlash and other repercussions due to the situation; as a result, the NHL has worked with the league’s teams to increase security for these players.

“He’s a good person, he’s an emotional person. He takes things personally. I think he’s been put under an incredible amount of pressure. For us it’s how do we support him. He’s been the face of our franchise, the face of hockey in this area, his family has grown up here, his kids are from here. Because of his status, it’s a hard situation that I’m not sure he’s fully thought out, that anybody has really. So it’s hard for him, we talk to him, he faces pressure from all sides, from North America, from Russia, from family, from a lot of different people and he tries to sort it out. So we try to support him, we have people talking to him all the time, help him get through what he needs to get through. I think it’s difficult for all the Russian players in the league, I think there’s a lot of pressure to put on them to have a political opinion either way, and they’re trying to balance out how they live their lives and what their political opinions are and the repercussions back home.”

In response to the invasion of Ukraine, the NHL cut business ties with Russian partners in support of Ukraine and equipment manufacturer CCM announced that they would not market their products using Russian players, including Ovechkin.

“I think some of the sources of information too, are different for Russian players. So they have to balance out a lot of different things. I just think it’s hard for them to figure out where they fit in to the two situations, and what they can say, what they can’t say, and what their true feelings are. We have security, I think some of the stuff that goes on on social media, is scary for players on both sides, for both them and their families”.

One of the Capitals’ current crop of Russian players is goaltender and 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov, who has struggled to find consistency in his second season in the league.

“We’ve got both guys that have had low-60’s NHL starts, they’re inexperienced. I don’t know what level of NHL starts you get before you know ‘this is what he is’, sometimes goalies take longer. He has the skill and size to be a number one goalie, they’re both good, young goalies”.

The Capitals have had a number of young players play on the NHL roster this season, including Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas, Brett Leason.

“Really good, I think they’re all progressing well. Protas has been good, Leason has been good. I think it’s important for them in the American league to play more minutes. I think they had a great taste of the NHL and what it’s about in the NHL, but I think it’s a perfect time for them to be in the American league. I would have penciled McMichael in the American League at the beginning of the year, but because of injuries, he had a real good start, probably stalled a little bit, but has done a great job for a young player. His skating’s improved, his pace of play improved, but what matters for me is his physical maturity, he’ll get better as he gets older. I think up here, because of his age, it would be a lot harder for him to play center but I think he could get to that point for sure”.

The Capitals are next in action on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, a game that will be streamed exclusively on ESPN Plus.


About Della Young

Della Young is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter who earned a BFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from Regent University. Della comes from a family of big Capitals fans and became inspired to start writing for hockey in 2019. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and working on both sides of the camera. Follow Della on Twitter: @dellayoung
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12 Responses to “I’d Say We’re Not As Aggressive As We Normally Are, It’d Have to Make Sense”: Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan Speaks To the Media Ahead of the Trade Deadline

  1. DC Scappeli says:

    At least he’s being reasonable about “going all in”. It’d be too costly to give up our young guys for aging vets again. Besides, he may as well stay put. Losing Nicky, Mantha, and Oshie for some time has led to too much inconsistency with the lines, so who knows if they get better with them in the line ups

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m somewhat surprised of the apparent step back, away from the “all-in” mantra. That was the driving call last off-season – going all in during the last three years of Ovi-Backy era. That doesn’t mean I disagree with the step back, just a bit surprised he’s apparently changed course.

  2. DWGie26 says:

    But as DC said above, he also recognizes that we aren’t one piece away and wide sweeping changes don’t benefit the team. Plus we have some great players here who have been out a lot. Personally, I love BMAC’s transparent answers. Ultimately players need to step up.

    • DC Scappeli says:

      yep, no need to mortgage the future on a rental. Changes are coming, there’s no way they can continue with very little cap space. I’d think the re-tool is going to happen sooner than BMac expected.

      Eller will be gone or he won’t be signed once his contract is up next season and he’s an UFA. That’s $3.5 million that would be freed up . I think Hags is the same situation, 1 more season left on his contract and that is $2m+ freed up as well. The big one is the Carlson contract, that is like $8m and 3 more years of him on contract

      • steven says:

        After this season the folowing are out: Schultz ar $4 mil, Kempney at $2.5 mil so that is $6.5 mil saved. Then you have both Samsonov and Vanecek as UFA; do you keep both which means paying Smasonov over $2 mil for being an average goalie? There are both Sprong, and Snively making $750K as PFA. Both can be esigned for cheeap. The big contraces that need to be dumped are Carlson at $8 mil for 4 more years but I honestly dont see many takers and Eller at $35 and Hagelin at $2.5 and both expire after next season. Isnt it time to put McMichael at C where hebelongs! Also Orlov who makes $5.1 will be a UFA after next season ut at 30 he still has a lot of good years left but can they afford to keep him. The same for mantha who is a UFA in 2 years and his $5,7 comes off the board and 30 do you resign him. If they draft well and develop players they should be able to fill most of those slots inhouse.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think a scoring forward and maybe an upgrade at #2 goaltender is not being that far away. We are just getting Oshie and Backstrom and now Mantha. That’s a ton of fire power. I’d be shocked if he’s not bluffing and loads both barrels at trade deadline.

      • DC Scappeli says:

        true, with those guys being out, it’s messed up the consistency in the 2nd and 3rd lines. We’ll see if they can round into form and make a difference or not….still, 2 out of the 3 are older and slower. Mantha is a little younger but he’s not fast either.

        but yeah, they need goalie help. We’ll see if it’s a re-tool or if BMac pulls a fast one at the trade deadline, yet I don’t think he’s bluffing.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s so hard to say. He’s obviously not going to undersell any of his trade pieces and going to say that he is not needing a player to better his trade stance. We will see.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Gives me all kinds of confidence that they can improve things. No clue. No plan. No chance.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Trade Carlson, oshie, Eller, Sprong (only because they don’t trust him) to free up cap space for the off season. Schultz and Kempney are gone. Buyout /dump Hagelin. Replace some from within but $20M of cap space to find productive players.

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