The Washington Capitals acquired six players at the start of free agency on July 13, thus significantly reshaping their forward corps. The moves were necessary to fill specific holes created by injuries, but also generated questions regarding other players and their long-term roles with the team.
One of those players that remains floating around in the ether, somewhat, is forward Axel Jonson-Fjallby. Where does he exactly fit with the recent addition of forwards, most notably Marcus Johansson?
It was nearly a foregone conclusion (by me) that Jonsson-Fjallby would assume the vacant position left by Carl Hagelin on the 4th line. The two players are very similar in skills, including defense and penalty killing, but Jonsson-Fjallby has several other additional benefits.
Jonsson-Fjallby is lightning fast and has an excellent shot, both lacking with Hagelin. Jonason-Fjallby is also $2,000,000 cheaper and nine years younger than Hagelin. The transition seemed obvious. It seemed like a slam dunk.
Not So Fast?
Jonsson-Fjallby was recalled by the Capitals one final time on March 4, and stayed with the team for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. I say “one final time” because the Capitals are unable to return Jonsson-Fjallby to Hershey, from this point forward.
Axel played fairly well, recording two goals and two assists in 23 games played in a mostly defensive roll for the team (4th line). However, he didn’t play a single game in the post-season, as Johan Larsson, acquired at the trade deadline, filled in for Hagelin on the 4th line and did a good job.
Larsson left this summer in free agency but the Capitals (re)signed versatile veteran forward Marcus Johansson. With the addition of Dylan Strome, Connor Brown and Marcus Johansson, most of the holes in the lineup are seemingly plugged, with Marcus Johansson likely assuming the left wing on the 3rd line…for now.
Between The Lines
Reading between the lines (always dangerous, but it’s July), it’s a safe assumption to believe that the Capitals didn’t see enough from Jonsson-Fjallby, in the 23 games he played, to have him play in the postseason. As a result, he sat in the press box in lieu of veteran experience. Something we are growing accustomed to seeing. Maybe that’s the case, maybe not.
So where does that leave Jonsson-Fjallby for the 2021-22 season? Right now he could still pencil-in at left wing on the 4th line, but there are several other variables to consider. And do the Capitals still believe in the young Swede?
Enter Joe Snively. He was excellent in his short stint with the Capitals. In fact, Snively was on fire for the entire season, including his time with the Hershey Bears. Then he suffered a season-ending wrist injury at the peak of his blazing-hot start with the Capitals. Before being sidelined, he recorded four goals and three assists in just 12 games with the Capitals, and 15 goals and 23 assists in just 35 games with the Bears. It’s hard to believe the Capitals will return Snively to the Bears at any point in the near future.
When Tom Wilson returns, will Sheary move over to the left side? He’s played there and seen some success. And if he does, what does the domino effect look like on the left side? We could see a decision between Snively and Jonsson-Fjallby for the 13th forward spot, and one possibly being dealt, as both would require waivers and would unlikely clear.
The additional wild card is head coach Peter Laviolette’s preference for veterans. We’ve seen this play out a number of times, and actually cost us a promising prospect (Jonas Siegenthaler). Would he keep Marcus Johansson over Snively or Jonsson-Fjallby?
First and foremost, the Capitals need to prepare for opening night, and deal with Wilson’s return when it occurs. The question is, how will the opening night roster look, and who will be holding the short straw when Wilson does indeed return?
By Jon Sorensen