Exactly 19 days ago, Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan shared his outlook on the 2022 NHL trade deadline, which was set at 3:00 PM ET today. True to his word on being less aggressive than usual, the Capitals made only a pair of trades before the clock struck on the league’s 32 clubs.
The Capitals first acquired longtime forward Marcus Johansson, who was previously traded after seven seasons with the team in the summer of 2017. The Capitals sent young forward Daniel Sprong and two draft picks to the Seattle Kraken.
“I think anywhere in the top-nine he can play, both wings. I think he’s a versatile player that has a comfort level with a lot of people off the ice and on the ice. A lot of games playing with Kuzy, lot with Nick, knows our power play really well, so I think he can come in and he’s comfortable right away, he knows how guys play, what he can do to play with them, so that was attractive in our mind”.
The Capitals’ once-vaunted power play has fallen to a 20th-best in the NHL with a success rate of 19.4. Johansson, who recorded 85 power play points in his first stint with Washington (501 games), brings another option for Head Coach Peter Laviolette.
“I think a lot of first unit power play too. Obviously he’s good on entries, good goal-line guy, gets to the front of the net, so he’s got some skills that way. He can play on either one of our power plays, depending on what the coaches want to do”.
The Caps’ second trade saw the team acquire Center Johan Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes. Noted for his defensive game, the 29-year old is coming off sports hernia surgery in February.
“We’ve always liked Larsson, even when he was in Buffalo, he’s a real good defensive player. Again, he’s versatile, he can play center, he can play wing; kills penalties, real responsible player, good 5-on-5 guy. So I think there’s multiple uses for him also, and I think adding center depth is important too. I would anticipate right around a week of team practice before he can play, but we’ll see how he does when he gets in”.
The Capitals’ struggles in net and to start 2022 overall (they went a combined 8-12-2 from their first game of 2022 to their final game of February, allowing 71 Goals Against) were potentially factors in the team’s targets at the start of March (although the Capitals’ GM expressed confidence in the young tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov), however the improved play of the team and Vanecek did not factor into the team’s decisions today.
“No I think we play a lot better but again, it’s getting guys back, getting guys slotting properly, and Vitek playing really well in net. All those things contributed to our level of play increasing and our record of late. I think the goal has been to find some chemistry in our middle-six, whether injuries or other things that were happening, and some depth because it seems like the whole year we’ve been injured, players going in and out of the lineup and going into the playoffs, we wanted to have as much depth as we could”.
Vanecek’s strong play in net as of late has played a large part in the team’s improved record (over his last 10 games, the former second-round pick has gone 7-2-0 with two shutouts and a .930 Save Percentage) and gave the team’s management confidence going forward this season.
“I think it was great what he’s done here lately. I think he deserves the opportunity to take the team into the playoffs. We’ve got a certain comfort level with the way he’s played and way he’s maintained it so we were comfortable with the goaltending”.
Despite flashes of potential last season and promising signs of offensive productivity, Daniel Sprong was unable to crack the Caps’ lineup this season, recording 14 points in 47 Games Played. The 25-year old was previously acquired by the Capitals from the Anaheim Ducks, and finished his time with Washington having played 89 games and registering 34 points (21 goals, 13 assists). The Capitals’ modus operandi at this deadline, combined with Sprong’s struggle to integrate himself as a lineup regular, could explain why he became expendable.
“We were looking for versatile guys…I think we got the Dowd line that can match up against anybody and we’re trying to play good, two-way hockey against other players…I think there’s certain aspects of his game that are more inconsistent, and he needs to be more consistent in that area. And when you’re not finishing, you get held accountable for those things that you’re not accomplishing on the team aspect. I think you can overlook things when goals are being scored, and can’t when they’re not being scored”.
MacLellan also revealed that forward Carl Hagelin, who injured his eye during a practice at the beginning of the month, underwent a second surgery on his eye.
General manager Brian MacLellan meets with the media to talk deadline acquisitions Marcus Johansson and Johan Larsson, as well as the club heading into the stretch run.#ALLCAPS
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 21, 2022
By Michael Fleetwood