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Caps GM MacLellan on signing Holtby, other topics


Caps GM MacLellan on signing Holtby, other topics

Capitals first-year general manager Brian MacLellan met with reporters for close to 30 minutes on Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. In Part One, he gives his thoughts on re-signing Braden Holtby and Joel Ward and the team’s expectations for Tom Wilson.

On how the Capitals' 2014-15 season ended: 

Probably mixed emotions for me. The way it ended is not the way you want it to end. I'm disappointed in that. I'm disappointed we didn't close out the victory against New York. But overall I think we made a lot of progress from where where we started at the beginning of the year to where we finished up. I think we made huge steps as a team, as an organization. And I think we learned from what happened at the end and addressed things and tried to make it better and try to get over that hurdle next year.

On the financial challenges that lie ahead:

I think it will sort itself out. We have some RFAs we really like and we want to bring them back and we'll work through it. I think we can get reasonable contracts on all of them. And then we'll make some decisions based on where the [salary] cap ends up and how much money we have left over after that and how we want to invest it.  

On re-signing goaltender Braden Holtby, who will be a restricted free agent:

Yeah, I do. He's going to be a priority for us. Obviously, he’s a big part of what’s gone on this year. I think the development of Braden has been tremendous. Personally and as a player I think he represents pretty much everything you want in a team’s goaltending.

On whether he would prefer to give Holtby a long-term contract or a three-year bridge contract that carries him through his first season of unrestricted free agency in 2017-18:

I think we’re open to both. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll talk with his representation and him and see what works best for him and what’s best for the organization.

On whether Holtby’s contract value determines other negotiations:

All the restricted guys. We’re going to be working on them simultaneously. It’s not going to be just Braden. We like Beags [UFA Jay Beagle]. We want to get Beags at a good number as a fourth-line player. We want to bring [RFA] Marcus Johansson back. He’s 25 years old, he’s still developing. We think we can get more out of him going forward and [RFA Evgeny] Kuznsetsov has been a big part of our success at the end of the year. I mean, he filled a hole at second-line center that we’ve been trying to fill for a number of years. He’s going to be important to our team going forward also.

On being able to re-sign restricted free agents while also having enough money to re-sign unrestricted free agents:

We’ve done some homework on guys and we have a range where we think it’s good value for us and for them. I think it’s important for players to realize that we’ve had a successful team and if they believe we have a good chance moving forward to win a championship they recognize that going for max dollars, which [they] could make the choice to do in certain situations, it would hinder our ability to compete going forward.

On whether getting players to take less money might take some convincing;

I think we had a positive experience here. I think we’ve experienced a lot of success. I mean, on the exit interviews you hear a lot of language of ‘this is the most fun I’ve ever had playing. This is the best team we’ve had. This is the most success we’ve experienced.’ A lot of positive comments. So I’m assuming they all want to come back. It would be different if it went the other way on us.

On which free agents will be easiest to sign:

From talking to [Beagle] I know he likes it here. He’s comfortable here; he’s comfortable with the coaching staff. So he’d be an easier one to sign, I would hope. [Kuznetsov] is the same thing. He likes it here. He likes his role. He likes the coaching staff. There are a lot of positives with these guys, they want to come back, so we’re going to work hard to get them back.

On the future of 34-year-old veteran Joel Ward:

Joel’s had less mileage for a guy in his 30s because he started late. He played Canadian university hockey [at Prince Edward Island]. I think there’s a little bit to that, but as you get up in age, I think there is a deterioration, no matter how much mileage you put on it. Term is going to be an issue, I think, there, going forward. I mean, if we can work in a good number and we feel Joel can continue to play at the level he’s playing at, we’ll work it out.

On whether he saw deterioration in Ward’s game this season:

No, I did not. He played good. They moved him around a lot and he did a great job in the playoffs on the first line at the end of the year.

On playoff success impacting a player’s value:

Your skill level gets tested as much as it can at that high level of play. Against New York that was the highest level we got to all year. Guys rise to that occasion and play at that level. Once they hit that level you know that, too. I think coming back next year, I want to see that level from Day One. Here’s what he did in the playoffs, let’s do it all year.

On whether Ward’s future in Washington is tied to the development of Tom Wilson:

Yeah, I think. There are a lot of moving parts here. Obviously, we want to get Wilson more ice time next year. We need to bump him up. We need to, maybe not next year but the year after, turn him into a top six forward. I think we need some skill development there. I don’t like having him on the fourth line for a whole year. I don’t think he touched the puck enough. I think he needs to make more plays. He’s already a big part of our identity. We just need to maximize him as a player and I think he has the potential to do that. During the year I’ve seen him play first line where he was effective. He gets in on the forecheck, he’s physical, he creates loose pucks. We just need him making more plays and doing more with the puck and contributing offensively. I think we can get that out of him. Barry ]Trotz] is big on details and managing the game and learning to play the right way. Tom does make a few mistakes, coaching mistakes I would call them, managing the puck and all the language Barry uses. I think it’s good that Barry holds the young guys accountable for it. I think in the end they all learn. I mean, you watch the progression of Kuznetsov this year, it was the same thing. [Andre] Burkovsky also. Burakovsky’s a little younger [20] and Barry was, ‘You need to do this. You need to not turn it over here. You need to not play one-on-one here.’ I think there was a good education there for all of our young guys this year.      

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”

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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.