Screenshot: Washington Capitals
The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline saw the Washington Capitals’ front office make transactions that left no doubt as to their outlook on the 2022-23 season and the results thus far. General Manager Brian MacLellan spoke with the media following the team’s final transactions by the 3:00 PM ET deadline.
By trading away a number of longtime core players, such as Stanley Cup hero Lars Eller, stalwart defenseman Dmitry Orlov, and Garnet Hathaway, MacLellan took a step toward preparing the Caps for not only the immediate seasons to follow, but those further down the road.
“I think we had to make some tough decisions probably a little sooner than we would have liked to make them”, admitted MacLellan, who is in his ninth season as GM, “But we had to make them when we made them.
“We had some good guys, good players that we didn’t really want to part with but we ended up parting with because I don’t know that we were showing the consistency we needed to show to become a team that we needed to go for it.”
The Capitals, who have struggled this season due to inconsistency and injuries, made moves that in some ways moved them towards becoming a younger club.
“I think we had to straddle a line about what’s best for the future, what’s best for our team in the future”, MacLellan said when asked about the team’s approach, “And try to still add players and stay competitive.”
I think we want to be competitive next year, I still think we want to be competitive this year. I think we got a a pretty good team. We’re going through some injuries, our backend has been decimated a little bit, we’ve tried to add a good, young defenseman in [Rasmus] Sandin, so we’ll see where we are when we come out of it.”
While the team dealt away some longtime contributing pieces, the club held on to pending unrestricted free agents Trevor van Riemsdyk and Conor Sheary.
“I think there was a trade-off between we like the players, we have some interest in bringing them back, and what the return is. If something really made sense then we would have pursued it but we’d rather have the guys on our team and the chance to bring them back going forward, then the return was what we were being offered for.”
Sandin, who at just 22-year old and a former first-round pick, seems to be on a path to a bigger role in Washington and a building block on the back end.
“We like his age, we like his game”, said MacLellan when asked about the team’s acquisition of the young blueliner, “He’s a puck-moving, skilled defenseman, he’s a competitive guy. A real good 5-on-5 player so far, gonna add a little bit to the power play.”
“There’s upside here…he’s going to get an opportunity with us to play higher in the lineup and I think he’s excited about it and I think he can take advantage of it. There’s only room to grow for him…we see a guy that hopefully we can build around going forward…that will play here a long time.”
MacLellan, who has been with the Capitals organization since 2003 in various roles, elaborated on the outlook for his team given the remaining seasons with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstron on the roster.
“We have some draft capital that we can use going forward. We’ve acquired some picks, I think next year’s first-round pick is going to be a good pick, we should get a good player there. And moving forward into the offseason into the draft, we’ve got some flexibility to trade for players.”
While the team remains focused on competing in the final seasons of its longtime core, MacLellan reiterated the team is also taking a futuristic look as well.
“Hopefully it’s not confusing”, MacLellan responded when asked about the club’s active sell-off this season, “We have an older core we’re still going to move forward with…Our goal is to add some younger players, we did that with Sandin, Marty Fehervary is coming, we’ll see where [Alex] Alexeyev is here down the stretch, called up [Vincent] Iorio, we added [Sonny] Milano, we added [Dylan] Strome.”
“I think we’re adding a lot of good pieces that we can continue to be competitive. And you compliment them with [Tom] Wilson, you compliment them with [Evgeny Kuznetsov] Kuzy, with Ovi, with [T.J.] Oshie.”
“I think it’s still a competitive team, I don’t look at it as taking a huge step back, I think we might actually be taking a step forward.”
MacLellan also added that Fehervary, a pending Restricted Free Agent, is a player the team hopes to build around on the blueline alongside Sandin.
To listen to MacLellan’s full comments on the deadline and other topics, see the video below: