Screenshot: Washington Capitals
“Open-minded” is a word that could define Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan’s press conference this afternoon, following the Capitals’ moves on the opening day of NHL free agency on July 1. The nine-year GM touched on a variety of roster decision surrounding his club going forward.
While the Capitals’ free agent moves weren’t major headliners, the team’s most notable addition came in the form of former Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who inked a one-year deal with Washington after playing in Carolina last season.
“Goal scoring”, MacLellan said, of the team’s interest in the 34-year old veteran, “I think we’ve got to find a way to score more goals, and that’s what he does.”
Pacioretty played just five games with the Hurricanes in 2022-23 before re-injuring his Achilles tendon.
“Good player, beyond the injury I think he’s still, probably better, than he was, in his later years”, MacLellan said, noting that the team would “not put a time table” on Pacioretty’s debut with Washington, and did “due diligence” before signing the veteran of 855 career NHL games, talking with doctors about the injury.
The Capitals also added defenseman Joel Edmundson in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens, increasing depth on the blueline in the process.
“I think when we were going through the free agent market, the trade market, it’s an element we wanted to add to our lineup”, said MacLellan of the reason behind acquiring Edmundson. “Looked at the free agent market, see what the cost was.”
“Decided to go that way, spend a pick on it. Plus the salary retention was appealing to us too because we could afford that. So we’re adding two players with a limited amount of cap space.”
MacLellan also noted that he believes Pacioretty can serve as a top-six forward for the team, while Edmundson’s role could vary, depending on whether the Caps’ new coaching staff favor certain matchups and that he will “get a shot to play with different guys”.
With a goal of getting younger this offseason, the Capitals appear to have kicked the bucket on a number of moves leading up to, during the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and leading up to free agency. Despite adding two veteran players, the Caps’ current crop of young prospects still have a chance at a roster spot this fall.
“I do”, MacLellan responded, when asked about the chances for players such as Connor McMichael, Beck Malenstyn, and Aliaksei Protas to make the team, “I think they all had a good playoff, they’re all getting better…I would pencil them in for next year.”
As for the rest of the offseason, the Caps are not ruling out further options.
“You know ideally, I think our strategy going into draft time period was to make a trade”, MacLellan revealed, “To identify the age group we’re kinda targeting and try to make a trade and bring in a top-six forward.”
“We were open to possibilities. Pursued a number of things, but unfortunately didn’t come through for us, so…we’re looking to add a top-six guy, which we did with Pacioretty, and we’ll continue to monitor the trade market”, MacLellan finished, adding that the team sees an ideal target as 25-30 years of age.
“I think we’ve had an aggressive approach at the draft and nothing panned out. And we’ll continue to have the conversations going forward. I’m assuming you get to mid-July and things will quiet down, and then back in training camp things pick up again, that would be the timing of it.”
Defenseman Martin Fehervary, among the young players the Caps have, is currently a Restricted Free Agent. MacLellan says moves were made with a contract for Fehervary in mind, while the team will start discussing a contract extension with Tom Wilson.
“We’ll have some time here, now, so we’ll start talking and see where it goes from here.”
To listen to MacLellan’s full comments, see below: