Creatures of Habit: Brian MacLellan’s Familiar Business Partners

While it may be hard to believe, Brian MacLellan has been the General Manager of the Washington Capitals for eight years. Since being named to the post held by his predecessor George McPhee for 17 seasons in April 2014, MacLellan has proven to be a pro-active and ambitious GM, unafraid to pull the trigger on major free agents and/or trades.

During his eight seasons at the helm of the Caps’ front office, MacLellan has been an active participant in trades that he hopes will fix a lineup problem, cut excess salaries, or better the team for another run to the Stanley Cup. When one examines his trading partners, however, it is obvious that “GMBM” has preferred business with a select group of NHL clubs.

Trading Partners of the Capitals Since the 2014-15 Season (per NHL Trade Tracker):

– St. Louis Blues (3)
– Colorado Avalanche (3)
– New Jersey Devils (3)
– Montreal Canadiens (3)
– Detroit Red Wings (2)
– New York Rangers (2)
– Winnipeg Jets (2)
– Los Angeles Kings (2)
– Seattle Kraken (2)
– Philadelphia Flyers (2)
– Calgary Flames (2)
– San Jose Sharks (1)
– Ottawa Senators (1)
– Carolina Hurricanes (1)
– Minnesota Wild (1)
– Chicago Blackhawks (1)
– Arizona Coyotes (1)
– Buffalo Sabres (1)
– Vegas Golden Knights (1)
– Toronto Maple Leafs (1)
– Anaheim Ducks (1)

To sum that up, it is a total of 36 trades and 21 teams. Of those 36 trades, 26 (72%) have been with the same teams two or more times.

Below we will take a look at the teams with which MacLellan has done business with two or more times and the trades conducted with each.

St. Louis Blues 
Trades Made = 3

1st Trade: July 2, 2015
Capitals Trade: Troy Brouwer (RW), Pheonix Copley (G), 2016 3rd RD Draft Pick
Blues Trade: TJ Oshie (RW)

2nd Trade: June 24, 2016
Capitals Trade: 2016 1st RD Draft Pick (#26; used by STL on Tage Thompson, F)
Blues Trade: 2016 1st RD Draft Pick (#28; used by WSH on Lucas Johansen, D), 2016 3rd RD Draft Pick

3rd Trade: February 27, 2017
– Capitals Trade: Zach Sanford (F), Brad Malone (F), 2017 1st RD Draft Pick (traded to PHI by STL, used to select Morgan Frost, C), 2019 Conditional 2nd RD Pick
– Blues Trade: Kevin Shattenkirk (D), Pheonix Copley (G)

Colorado Avalanche
Trades Made = 3

1st Trade: March 1, 2017
– Capitals Trade: Cody Corbett (D)
– Avalanche Trade: Joe Cannata (G)

2nd Trade: June 22, 2018
– Capitals Trade: Brooks Orpik (D), Philipp Grubauer (G)
– Avalanche Trade: 2018 2nd RD Draft Pick

3rd Trade: June 28, 2019
– Capitals Trade: Andre Burakovsky (F)
– Avalanche Trade: Scott Kosmachuk (F), 2020 2nd & 3rd RD Draft Picks

New Jersey Devils
Trades Made = 3

1st Trade: July 2, 2017
– Capitals Trade: Marcus Johansson (F)
– Devils trade: 2018 2nd & 3rd RD Draft Picks

2nd Trade: April 11, 2021
– Capitals Trade: Jonas Siegenthaler (D)
– Devils Trade: 2021 3rd RD Draft Pick

3rd Trade: July 8, 2022
– Capitals Trade: Vitek Vanecek (G), 2022 2nd RD Draft Pick
– Devils Trade: 2022 2nd & 3rd RD Draft Picks

Montreal Canadiens 
Trades Made = 3 

1st Trade: June 24, 2016
– Capitals Trade: 2017 2nd RD Draft Pick, 2018 3rd RD Draft Pick
– Canadiens Trade: Lars Eller (C)

2nd Trade: February 21, 2018
– Capitals Trade: 2019 5th RD Draft Pick
– Canadiens Trade: Jakub Jerabek (D)

3rd Trade: February 23, 2020
– Capitals Trade: 2020 3rd RD Draft Pick
– Canadiens Trade: Ilya Kovalchuk (RW)

Winnipeg Jets
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: June 28, 2014
– Capitals Trade: Eddie Pasquale (G), 2014 6th RD Draft Pick
– Jets Trade: 2014 6th & 7th RD Draft Picks, 2015 7th RD Draft Pick

2nd Trade: July 26, 2021
– Capitals Trade: Brenden Dillon (D)
– Jets Trade: 2022 2nd RD Draft Pick, 2023 2nd RD Draft Pick

New York Rangers
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: June 27, 2015
– Capitals Trade: 2015 3rd & 4th RD Draft Picks
– Rangers Trade: 2015 2nd RD Draft Picks

2nd Trade: February 9, 2018
– Capitals Trade: Hubert Labrie (D), John Albert (C)
– Rangers Trade: Adam Chapie (F), Joe Whitney (F)

Detroit Red Wings 
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: February 22, 2019
– Capitals Trade: Madison Bowey (D), 2020 2nd RD Draft Pick
– Red Wings Trade: Nick Jensen (D), 2019 5th RD Draft Pick

2nd Trade: April 12, 2021
– Capitals Trade: Jakub Vrana (F), 2021 1st RD Draft Pick, Richard Panik (F), 2022 2nd RD Draft Pick
– Red Wings Trade: Anthony Mantha (F)

Los Angeles Kings 
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: February 15, 2017
– Capitals trade: Future Considerations
– Kings Trade: Tom Gilbert (D)

2nd Trade: February 21, 2019
– Capitals Trade: 2019 3rd RD Draft Pick, 2020 Conditional 6th RD Draft Pick
– Kings Trade: Carl Hagelin (F)

Seattle Kraken
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: July 28, 2021
– Capitals Trade: 2023 2nd RD Draft Pick
– Kraken Trade: Vitek Vanecek (G)

2nd Trade: March 21, 2022
– Capitals Trade: Daniel Sprong (F) 2022 4th RD Draft Pick, 2023 6th RD Draft Pick
– Kraken Trade: Marcus Johansson (F)

Philadelphia Flyers
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: June 24, 2019
– Capitals Trade: Matt Niskanen (D)
– Flyers Trade: Radko Gudas (D)

2nd Trade: April 12, 2021
– Capitals Trade: 2021 5th RD Draft Pick
– Flyers Trade: Michael Raffl (F)

Calgary Flames
Trades Made = 2

1st Trade: March 1, 2015
– Capitals Trade: 2015 2nd & 3rd RD Draft Picks
– Flames Trade: Curtis Glencross (F)

2nd Trade: October 6, 2020
– Capitals Trade: 2020 1st RD Draft Pick (CAL used to select Connor Zary, C), 2020 3rd RD Draft Pick
– Flames Trade: 2020 1st RD Draft Pick (WSH used to select Hendrix Lapierre, C)

MacLellan has sought the cooperation of these above teams twice or more, with three clubs (NYR, PHI, NJ) fellow teams within the Metropolitan Division. A number of these trades have had significant implications for the Caps since they were made; the likes of TJ Oshie, Nick Jensen, Lars Eller, and Anthony Mantha are current members of the team’s lineup, with both Oshie and Eller playing significant roles in the team’s 2018 Stanley Cup victory. Others saw members of the team’s core depart.

What is readily apparent from the above numbers is that the Capitals’ general manager has favored players or draft picks from certain organizations when doing business with opposing GMs. A majority of the moves that MacLellan has made has been with the end goal of a(nother) Stanley Cup run in mind with a veteran core while balancing the team’s roster in a salary cap era.

Of the 21 teams, 11 (roughly 52%) have made deals with MacLellan on two or more occasions with four having done business with the Capitals on three separate occasions.

Whatever MacLellan’s approach is when looking to make trades, it is unquestionable he is a creature of habit when it comes to his idea of potential trade partners to do business with. Whether it is a closer relationship to the front offices of said teams or just a matter of the types of players the Caps covet, or purely a matter of coincidence, the trend over his eight years on the job is nonetheless interesting.


By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. Michael joined the NoVa Caps team in 2015, and is most proud of the growth of the NoVa Caps community in that time. An avid photographer, Michael resides in VA.
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5 Responses to Creatures of Habit: Brian MacLellan’s Familiar Business Partners

  1. Anonymous says:

    Informative breakdown. Thank you. Interesting who he prefers to do business with.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Of those trades listed, the only players whom GMBM traded during the season were: Sanford, Seigenthaler, Bowey, Vrana, and Sprong. Sanford, Bowey, Vrana, and Sprong were all traded for immediate [perceived] help: Shattenkirk, Jensen, Mantha, and Johansson. Seigenthaler was a cap casualty made expendable by Chara’s signing, and although it looks like that trade will continue to bite us in the ass, it was the right thing to do for Jonas the person to give him the chance that he earned.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So Eller gets traded to STL?

  4. steven says:

    Nice break down. However there is a team that the Caps traded with justonce and got fleeced…….Vegas; when GMBM traded Chandler Stephenson to Vegas for a lousy 5th round pick. Talk about the Old boy stealing from his replacement!

  5. GR+in+430 says:

    I know it’s August, so not much going on, but this analysis doesn’t actually indicate anything about GMBM’s approaches or habits or mindset or … anything.

    First, beware statistics based on small sample sizes. The largest number of trades with any team is 3 over 8 years… and he has dealt with 21 of the 32 teams in that time. That’s a pretty flat and broad spread.

    Keep in mind also that it takes at least two clubs to make a trade, and we don’t know who initiated the discussions in any of these trades — it could be that some clubs’ GMs picked up the phone and called GMBM more often, and made offers GMBM liked more, or it could be that some other GMs won’t pick up the phone when GMBM calls, or don’t offer fair returns.

    There’s also a big difference in motivation between deadline deals and offseason deals, so the partners might be different. The deadline deals have usually been to acquire rental help for a playoff run, which usually means dealing with teams that aren’t in the playoffs, and there are some clubs that have been in that category more often than others.

    Offseason deals for the Caps are often about salary dumps, so the partner has to have the cap space to eat the contract, as well as the picks, prospects or cheap players the Caps would ask for in return. Admittedly there’s a some overlap between the clubs that lose and those with cap space, but it would make sense that when your motivations are different your partners might differ as well.

    Bottom line, there’s a lot of variables involved in this equation, and the statistics in this case just don’t show the bias that the post claims. If GMBM had only dealt with 4 or 5 clubs 7 or more times, then you might have a story. But he didn’t, so you don’t.

    Thank your chosen deities that the world juniors start next week so that you folks don’t have to dig quite as deep to come up with something to post.

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