With a wife, Julie, and a 3-year-old daughter, Sophia, Capitals center Lars Eller decided now might be a good time to visit Washington and begin making plans for his first season with the Capitals.
Eller, 27, visited with Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner and his wife, Mandy, over the holiday weekend, and discussed places to live and preschools his daughter could attend. The Alzners have a 2 ½-year-old daughter and just welcomed their first son into the world last month.
“We wanted to come in and see the city and find a preschool to make the transition a little smoother,” Eller told members of the media on Tuesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where he received his first tour since being traded to the Capitals for a pair of second-round draft picks (in 2017 and 2018) on June 24.
Eller, who has two years remaining on the four-year, $14 million contract he signed with the Montreal Canadiens two summers ago ($3.5 million cap hit), said it was nice to get acquainted with his new surroundings.
“It definitely (feels more real),” he said. “I spent six years in Montreal and it’s like your second home almost. You come to a new organization, a new city and there’s a lot of new things. You want to get some questions answered and get familiar with everything. It feels really good.”
Taken by the St. Louis Blues with the 13th overall selection in the 2007 NHL draft, Eller has been traded only one other time in his career. That came on June 17, 2010 when he was traded from the Blues to the Canadiens.
In six seasons in Montreal Eller played in 435 games and recorded 73 goals and 83 assists. Last season he netted 13 goals and 13 assists in 79 games and the Capitals are hoping for similar production next season as their third-line center.
“It’s a very different situation now (than in 2010) but honestly, so far it’s been nothing but positive since we’ve been here,” Eller said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a great fit for me and my family.”
On the night of his trade to Washington, Eller received a text message from Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin – “I don’t think there were any smiley faces, but her sent me a text and said welcome to the team” – then had a long chat over the phone with Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who made it clear Eller will begin the 2016-17 season as the Capitals’ third-line center behind Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“I’m super excited about this,” Eller said. “There are so many good things about this team. It can compete for a Cup. They have all the pieces that’s needed to be right there. I think it’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time. They have all the right pieces and it is a lot more fun to play on a team with a winning culture than it is the other way around. I really enjoyed my time in Montreal, I learned a lot. But I’m very excited to join the Caps and turn the page and start a new chapter.”
When Eller arrives at training camp in September – the Denmark native was not selected to play on Team Europe for the World Cup – he will wear No. 20, a jersey number he wore when he played for Peoria of the AHL in 2009-10.
Eller, who will become the first Danish-born player to play for the Caps, plans on returning to Montreal on Wednesday and visiting his family in Denmark for a couple weeks before returning to Montreal for summer workouts and arriving in D.C. in early September. He said his daughter is excited about moving into a new home.
“She asked for a pink room, so we’re going to try to give her that, at least.”
MORE CAPITALS: TOM WILSON READY TO PROVE HIS WORTH