Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan’s Five Best Trades

Photo: Zimbio

With the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline a week away, NoVa Caps takes a look at Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan’s five best trades since taking over.

NOTE: This includes all trades, not just ones that happened at past trade deadlines

5. G Vitek Vanecek From Seattle Kraken (In Exchange For Winnipeg Jets’ 2023 Second-Round Pick)

After the Kraken swiped the 26-year-old in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and signed a reigning Vezina Trophy finalist in Philipp Grubauer, they signed Chris Driedger as an unrestricted free agent and traded Vanecek back to the Capitals.

While all parties were happy at the time, this trade is starting to haunt the Kraken in their inaugural season as Grubauer and Driedger have combined for a league-worst .8942 five-on-five save percentage, a huge reason why the Kraken are last in the Western Conference with a .344 points percentage.

Meanwhile, Vanecek has taken the Capitals’ starting job in net as he is tied with reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner (Stanley Cup Playoff MVP) Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars for 18th in the NHL with a .918 save percentage, ranks 10th with a 2.35 goals-against average, and is tied for seventh with three shutouts. He has a 14-7-5 record this season and a .927 save percentage (sixth) in addition to a 2.19 goals-against average (seventh) since December 17.

4. 2022, 2023 Second-Round Picks From Jets (In Exchange For D Brenden Dillon)

After the Kraken did not provide the Capitals with cap space relief in the expansion draft (Vanecek carries a $716,667 cap hit), the Capitals needed to shed some salary themselves to re-sign captain Alex Ovechkin, who is in the Hart Trophy discussion as NHL MVP with 36 goals (fifth) and 71 points (seventh) in 58 games. Thus, they traded the 30-year-old Dillon with Martin Fehervary ready to slide into an everyday role.

The Capitals were able to improve their defense (their goals-against has gone down from 2.88 last season – 17th – to 2.78 – ninth), get younger after having the oldest team in the NHL, and shed cap space, all in one trade.

Fehervary, 21, has four goals, 11 points, a +13 rating, a 48.81% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 48.07% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.77% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 57 games and was in the Calder Trophy conversation as being the NHL’s top rookie before slowing down. He has averaged 19:25 per game this season (third among Capitals blueliners), including 1:44 on the penalty kill (fourth).

Meanwhile, Dillon, 31, has two goals, 18 points, a +15 rating, a 48.86% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 48.6% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 49.44% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 57 games. He averages 19:15 per game, including 1:46 with a man down (fourth among Jets defensemen).

3. D Nick Jensen From Detroit Red Wings (In Exchange For 2020 Second-Round Pick, D Madison Bowey)

With the Capitals looking to add depth, they brought in one of the analytical darlings of the 2019 trade deadline in the 31-year-old.

The trade did not look to be a good one for a while as Jensen struggled in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he tallied a -2 rating, a 43.32% Corsi-for percentage, and a 39.23% expected goals-for percentage in seven games after recording five assists and a +3 rating in 20 regular-season games while averaging of 15:32 of ice-time per game, including 1:27 on the penalty-kill. After Michal Kempny went down for the remainder of the season, Jensen got more time on the top-pair with Carlson.

Jensen had a rough start to his first full season in Washington and 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.

The 30-year-old built on his strong ending of the previous season 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 in the lineup.

This season, Jensen got off to a strong start but has fallen off since returning from COVID-19. While averaging 19:17 per game (fourth), including 2:28 on the penalty kill (second), he has earned a 49.32% Corsi-for percentage, a 49.51% expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.53% scoring chances-for percentage at five-on-five.

Bowey has been on three teams in the past three seasons and played just two games in each of the past two. He set career-highs in goals (three), assists (14), and points (17) in 53 games with the Red Wings in his first full season with the organization but also earned a -16 rating and was not tendered a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent.

2. Kempny From Chicago Blackhawks (In Exchange For Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2018 Third-Round Pick)

After playing a key role alongside Carlson on the team’s top defensive pair during the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup last spring, Kempny got a big raise. Reirden helped Kempny establish himself as a top-four NHL defenseman the past couple of years and it paid dividends for Kempny and the Capitals.

Kempny’s +24 rating that season was the best on the Capitals and the 17th best in the NHL. In addition, he set career-highs in games played (71), goals (six), assists (19), and points (25).

While averaging 19:11 (the sixth-highest average ice-time on the Capitals), including 1:39 shorthanded, Kempny recorded 135 blocked shots (the third-highest on the team) and 84 hits (the ninth-highest) in a solid campaign for the 28-year old.

Kempny’s season-ending hamstring injury required surgery and left a massive hole on the Capitals as their defense struggled without him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, allowing an average of 3.00 goals-per-game.

The 31-year-old did not return to his pre-injury form but posted three goals, 18 points, and team-leading +19 rating among in 58 games during the 2019-20 season. Though, he struggled towards the end of the year as he finished with a 49.93% Corsi-for percentage, a 49.54% expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.95% scoring chances-for percentage in 58 games. He was a healthy scratch for one regular-season game and three first-round Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Kempny suffered a torn Achilles tendon during offseason training last fall and underwent surgery on October 6. He did not play last season.

This season, Kempny struggled in training camp and did not make the Capitals’ opening night roster. It took until late December when Fehervary and Trevor Van Riemsdyk were out with COVID-19 for him to get a chance but Kempny has done well when given the opportunity as he has earned a goal, two points, a -2 rating, a 47.62% Corsi-for percentage, a 48.26% expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.92% scoring chances-for percentage while averaging 17:37 per game (sixth), including 1:29 on the penalty kill (fifth).

1. RW T.J. Oshie From St. Louis Blues (In Exchange For RW Troy Brouwer, G Pheonix Copley, 2016 Third-Round Pick)

With the Capitals in the market for a top-line right-wing after not being able to find the right combination with Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom despite trying nine different wingers there the previous season, the Capitals brought in Oshie.

In his first season with the team, Oshie set a career-high with 26 goals (which he has hit twice since arriving in Washington). The following year, he set career-bests in goals (33), points-per-game (.82), and plus-minus (+28). By that time, Brouwer had left the Blues as an unrestricted free agent, Copley had returned to the Capitals in the deal that brought defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the District, and the Capitals got the third-round pick they parted with back.

Oshie re-signed with the Capitals just as his deal was about to expire. Despite some tough luck in the first season of that contract where his production dipped to 18 goals and 47 points, Oshie made up for it with eight goals and 21 points in 24 postseason outings to help the team to their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.

Since then, Oshie has not slowed down as he has averaged .36, .38, and .42 goals-per-game and .78, .71, and .81 points-per-game over the next three seasons.

This year, he has missed 34 games due to three different injuries and COVID-19 but has not slowed down much when healthy with eight goals and 19 points in 26 games.

Brouwer earned 18 goals and 39 points in 82 regular-season games and eight goals and 13 points in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Blues before signing with the Calgary Flames as an unrestricted free agent.

Copley posted an .829 save percentage and a 4.32 goals-against average in two games with the Blues (only one of which was a start).

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
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5 Responses to Capitals’ GM Brian MacLellan’s Five Best Trades

  1. Anonymous says:

    Although Forsberg was traded for a bag of pucks when GMGM could have gotten Yandle, I think Forsberg staying with the Caps would have prevented us from winning the cup… He was making 6M$ while TJ is-was at 5M$… TJ was a major part of the cup!

  2. John says:

    Lars Eller trade in 2016 was pretty good also. Maybe #2 or at least #3 on your list.

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