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Veteran Caps show their support for Derek Roy


Veteran Caps show their support for Derek Roy

When veterans like Jason Chimera and Justin Williams look across the Capitals dressing room and see Derek Roy, a veteran of 738 NHL games and 49 career playoff games, they see an unsigned player who can bring valuable experience to a team in April, May and June.

“You can’t replace those games,” said Chimera, the Caps’ oldest player at age 36. “You can’t get that with a young kid, for sure. You can’t say, ‘OK, kid. Go play your first game,’ and expect him to do what he does. You can tell he’s a veteran. He knows where to be and he’s proven it over the years.”

Like many players his age, Roy, 32, became a free agent at a time when many NHL teams are spending their limited free-agent money on unproven players to fill secondary roles. The Caps were a perfect example over the summer, signing fringe NHLers Taylor Chorney, Aaron Ness, Ryan Stanton and Sean Collins to free-agent contracts while staying away from established veterans like Roy, Brad Boyes and Curtis Glencross.

RELATED: Where are the Caps on TSN's top 50 players?

“It was a weird year for free agents just a little over the age of 30,” said Williams, who turns 33 on Sunday. “Young guys can do the job, but I think eventually (teams) are going to find out that they can’t just yet.

“Guys have stuck around this league for a long time and there are reasons for it. Not everybody can do the job these guys can do. I think this is just a phase in the NHL and eventually they’re going to say, ‘All right, we might have missed a step here. We need a guy like this.'

“Derek’s been in the league a long time and he’s a great playmaker. I’ve played against him a long time and he makes plays and that’s what you want from a centerman.”

With the return of Nicklas Backstrom from hip surgery still uncertain, the Caps must make a decision on Roy by Tuesday, when opening night rosters must be submitted to the NHL.

Essentially, the battle for the role of depth center has been narrowed down to Roy and 21-year-old prospect Chandler Stephenson, who recorded seven goals and seven assists last season in his first AHL season with the Hershey Bears. Both players can kill penalties and could be used on the power play if needed.

“The thing that stands out about (Roy) is that he’s got the veteran instincts,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s sneaky. He’s probably lost a little speed over time and he’s not overly big (5-foot-9, 194 pounds).

“But he’s been a productive player because on the ice he’s pretty cerebral and can make small plays on give and goes. He doesn’t try to dangle one-on-one all the time. He uses his brain to get around the ice and that’s a pretty good gift to have.”

Roy said the skate test on the first day of training camp took a lot out of him, but he’s starting to feel his skating legs again and likes the opportunity he sees in Washington after spending the past three seasons with five different teams. Despite the constant movement, Roy has averaged 34 points in his past two seasons.

“My game could be elevated a little more in these last few preseason games,” he said. “It’s been a hard camp and my legs were a little tight. Hopefully, it gets better because skating is the best part of my game.”
Roy said he’s hoping that when the Caps’ coaching and management staffs gather to make a decision on him Sunday night or Monday, they’ll see the same thing Chimera and Williams see across the room from them.

“When you play teams you don’t really know how tight guys are and this is a tight group here,” Roy said. “A championship team.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz wants more out of one of his players

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The human side of the NHL's trade deadline


The human side of the NHL's trade deadline

Congratulations! You just got a new job. There’s just one catch: it’s in a new city.

Oh, and by the way, you start tomorrow. Good luck.

That would be a pretty big shock for anyone, but it is the reality that hockey players constantly face and one that is exacerbated as the trade deadline approaches.

“I know fans and media get really excited about it, but they're not the ones that have to pick up and move their families,” Brooks Orpik said following Sunday’s practice. “I think players are looked at as kind of objects at times, just a number. People don't know there's a human side to trades.”

This season’s NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. on Monday. Until then, every locker room faces a degree of uncertainty.


Almost no player or prospect is untouchable. Even if there are no rumors surrounding a team or things seem set, the threat of a trade hangs over the heads of the players like the sword of Damocles until the deadline finally comes and goes.

Even for those players who know they won’t be moved or who can’t be moved because of various clauses in their contracts, it still remains a stressful time as they could still see friends shipped to another city.

“I think what happens on that day is all the players, as soon as they get off the ice at morning skate, they're all looking at their phones and trying to see what happens,” Barry Trotz said. “They want to see what happens around the league.”

Sure, a player can go from a last place team to a contender. On the surface, they should be happy. Behind the scenes, however, midseason trades always carry family implications.

“It's tough on guys,” Orpik said. “Guys have kids in schools or have roots in the community of the teams they play for. As fun as it is for some people, I think as players it can definitely be nerve-wracking for people.”


When those trades do happen, they obviously can throw a player’s life upside-down.

For those players who are not traded, the team has to adjust both to losing familiar faces and to embracing new ones into the locker room.

“When someone comes into a new group, it's not much changed except for obviously a new piece,” Jay Beagle said. “But it's definitely harder on them so you try to make it as easy as possible on them.”

Thus far, the Capitals have added defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek over the past week. While both trades were done in exchange for draft picks, Taylor Chorney was a casualty of the trades as he was placed on waivers to make room for the new additions and was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It's tough losing guys, especially guys that are well-liked in our room,” Orpik said. “Taylor Chorney is a really well-liked guy so I think that impacted us a little bit.”

On Monday, fans, analysts, players and coaches alike will all be frantically checking their phones looking for the latest trade news, but while the deadline brings excitement for fans, it bears very different feelings for the players involved. Those players are people working a job and those trades mean uprooting their life in a matter of days. Regardless of whether a player is better off in terms of the team situation, there is still a human cost to doing business.

“It can affect certain guys because their names are obviously spread all over the place,” Trotz said. “They're human too. They pretend to not hear it, but they do.”

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Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice


Michal Kempny already promoted to top-four at Sunday's practice

After two games, it looks like Michal Kempny is already moving up in the lineup.

At Sunday’s practice, Kempny played on the team's second defensive pairing, lining up on the left of John Carlson. Previously, the Czech defenseman had been playing on the right of Brooks Orpik. The move to the left allows him to play on his natural side as he is a left-handed shot.

Here are the pairs from Sunday’s practice:

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Christian Djoos
Jakub Jerabek – Madison Bowey

Acquired on Monday from the Chicago Blackhawks, Kempny has played in two games for the Capitals and has received glowing reviews thus far.

“He's a really good pro, that's what sticks out,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He takes care of himself, he works at his game off the ice and with the guys, he has fit in very well.”


“I've gotten to play a little bit with [Kempny] the last couple games,” Brooks Orpik said. “I think he's a guy that, he moves pretty well and he moves the puck pretty well and likes to keep things pretty simple. He's very consistent and predictable so he's very easy to play with.”

When the Capitals first acquired Kempny, it seemed like the best fit for him would be alongside Carlson. It’s a natural fit with Kempny being a left-shot and Carlson a righty. It also bumps down Christian Djoos to a third-pair role which is preferable to having a rookie in the top-four come the playoffs.

Should Kempny play well with Carlson, that would likely solidify Washington’s top two pairs. The Orlov-Niskanen pair was not going to be changed and Carlson was going to be on the second pair. The only question was who would ultimately play with him in the postseason?

The third pair, however, remains a work in progress.

The Caps will have to wait at least another day for the debut of their second recent acquisition as Jakub Jerabek cannot yet play due to visa issues and will miss Monday's game, reports Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Considering the issues Washington has had on defense, they would not have brought in another defenseman just to be a healthy scratch. He will get his shot to earn a spot in the lineup.

With two new defensemen in tow, obviously the team will need to experiment over the next few days and weeks to find the right combinations.

“We're going to have to probably spend at least the next 10 to 12 games doing that and then we'll have to sort of settle in,” Trotz said. “With eight defenseman, you sort of want to see which guys you’re going to play and who to play as partners and sort of a little bit of ranking. If someone goes down, who's filling that extra role?”