The Washington Capitals wrapped up their 2022 development camp with their annual prospect scrimmage Friday night at Capital One Arena. The scrimmage gave Capitals draft picks and free agent invites a glimpse of what it could be like someday to play in the NHL.
Unfortunately for those prospects already on the cusp of making the team, their wait may have grown a little longer following the Capitals free agency and trade acquisitions this week. There simply isn’t any room for additions to the Capitals roster.
Reloaded For Another Run
The following is the Capitals latest organizational depth chart, organized by position. (Not a line chart). [Click to enlarge].
The signing of center Dylan Strome was a solid signing but likely closed the door for Hendrix Lapierre next season. The signing of Marcus Johansson likely shut the door on Aliaksei Protas. The trade for Connor Brown likely closed the door for Brett Leason.
That’s not to say the aforementioned prospects were ready for a full time position on the Capitals roster. In fact, time in Hershey for all three prospects would be very beneficial for their development.
The moves made by Macllelan and the Capitals last week further clarified the current thinking in Ballston. Reload for another serious run at a Stanley Cup. However, that thinking appears to have changed from just a week ago.
“We have to plan for Nick coming back at some point. What we can do, we can give opportunities to our young guys. We’ve got some young guys, [Connor] McMichael we hope to get to the next step, [Hendrix] Lapierre, we’ll see where he’s at, [Aliaksei] Protas is coming in, we expect him to take the next jump, and kinda look from there,” said MacLellan back on July 6th, just before the draft. “It’s not that we can go out and sign a $9 million player, but until that goes away, we’re planning on him coming back.”
In defense of MacLellan, the statements he made at the time could have been posturing in advance of the draft and opening of free agency. You certainly don’t want to broadcast to other GM’s your true plans for next season includes bringing in a half-dozen outside players from other teams. Also in his defense, plans change. New opportunities may have presented themselves.
Regardless of what you think of each of the postseason player acquisitions, the plan has become crystal clear. I pondered last week that we could already be experiencing a rebuild, with as much as 50% of the roster possibly turning over before opening night. However, with the acquisitions made last week, it’s clear this is no rebuild.
I’m not being critical of the moves made by MacLellan. In fact, I fully believe the Capitals are a much better team then they were just a week ago. No, the whole purpose of this exercise was to try to ascertain the true direction of the club, and what the current philosophical thinking was regards to roster management. Rebuild? Retool or Reload?
The plan is much clearer after last weeks opening of free agency, and we expected it to be so. We could still see a trade or two (Lars Eller), that might loosen up a potential depth spot for a prospect, but for now, there simply is no room for the elevation of current Capitals prospects.
Moves made by the Capitals last week have essentially shut the door for a few forward prospects next season. But that may be the best plan for all.
By Jon Sorensen