Devante Smith-Pelly went from potential star in 2014 to a buyout in 2017. Now the Caps are hoping they can tap back into that potential he showed with the Anaheim Ducks.
“I think there's some untapped potential,” general manager Brian MacLellan said to reporters in a conference call Monday. “I think maybe conditioning played a factor in some of it. I think we're going to work with him to see if we can get a little bit of that back and create a player that we can use.”
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Smith-Pelly looked like a player on the rise in 2014. After playing only 19 NHL games in the regular season that year, Smith-Pelly was phenomenal in the playoffs scoring five goals in 12 games for the Ducks. The following season he scored 17 points for Anaheim, but went on a two-month goalless drought and was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in February. One year later he was traded to the New Jersey Devils.
The trade sparked a productive streak as Smith-Pelly scored 13 points in 18 games with the Devils who re-signed him to a two-year deal. After just one year in which he totaled nine points in 53 games, New Jersey elected to buy him out of that contract making him an unrestricted free agent.
“I think for us, we're looking for ways on the bottom end of our lineup to add cheaper players or develop cheaper players because of the [Evgeny Kuznetsov] signing and the [T.J. Oshie] signing,” MacLellan said. “So we're going to have to be more creative on the fourth line.”
Because of their salary cap constraints, the Caps are in need of cheap players to fill out the lineup. Smith-Pelly represents a low risk, high reward type of player the team will be able to plug into the fourth line next season. They tried a similar move last season with the signing of Brett Connolly who recorded 23 points in limited ice time with a cap hit of only $850,000.
If the team can help Smith-Pelly return to that form he found in the playoffs in 2014, he will prove to be a steal.
“He has some things he wants to work at or we want him to work at,” MacLellan said. “We see him as a project that we might be able to turn him into a player that we can use on the NHL roster.”
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