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2020 NHL Trade deadline: Brian MacLellan looking for offense, sounds satisfied with the defense

2020 NHL Trade deadline: Brian MacLellan looking for offense, sounds satisfied with the defense

ARLINGTON, Va. -- With the acquisition of defenseman Brenden Dillon on Tuesday, the Capitals likely made their big trade deadline splash already. Given their cap space, another major move seems unlikely. But that does not necessarily mean general manager Brian MacLellan is done before Monday's deadline just yet.

"We're going to pursue anything that we think can make us better," MacLellan said Wednesday. "We'll continue to talk to teams. We've had conversations as we've had with the defense and we'll keep doing it and see if we can make our team better."

OK, so pretty much every general manager says that. What does it actually mean for the Caps?

While MacLellan said he would pursue anything that would make the team better, it does not appear that any other moves on defense are on the table.

Right defense has been a weakness for the team all season and the acquisition of Dillon does not seem to directly address that. The hope for Washington seems to be that the trickle-down effect of adding another defenseman to the top four will ultimately solve the team's defensive woes.

When asked if he was looking to add another defenseman, MacLellan answered no.

“We have seven [defensemen]," MacLellan said. "We’ve got Fehervary. We’ve got a couple guys in the minors we think we can use. I think we’re good depth-wise now."

Instead of defense, if there is another trade the focus would be to bolster the team's offensive depth.

The fourth line found early success this season, but the trio of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway has only one goal in the year 2020. The offensive production from that line has dried up.

While MacLellan was firm about his satisfaction with the defensive personnel, he seemed more open to finding help on offense.

"We’ll look at it," he said of adding to the fourth line. "I think overall they’ve played well. I would anticipate the production will come. They do the right things. They work hard, they forecheck, they play physical. The production might not have been as good as it was at the beginning of the year, but I think it will come.”

If MacLellan were to look to add, there is only a small amount of cap space to work with.

Cap Friendly estimates Washington having only about $1.077 million of cap space to work with at the deadline. With teams having the ability to retain 50-percent of a player's cap hit in a trade, at most Washington could add a player with a cap hit of just over $2.15 million. That's not insignificant, especially for a fourth-line player, but it does limit the team's options if MacLellan does pursue another addition.

"I’d love to have a lot more [cap space]," MacLellan said. "I’d love to have a $4 million player. No, we have a little bit left, so we can try to get creative around that.”

One way in which MacLellan does not intend to get creative, however, is with his goaltending.

With Braden Holtby on the final year of his contract and with rookie Ilya Samsonov playing so well in his first NHL season, many have wondered if that could lead to Holtby ending up on the trade block in an attempt to free cap space to make a bigger addition.

MacLellan, however, is much more interested in keeping Holtby for the playoff run and definitively put an end to all talk of a possible Holtby trade before the deadline.

"I think our story's been the same the whole year, that [Holtby's] our guy and we're going to try to compete for a Cup," MacLellan said. "I think we want him at the top of his game at the end of the year."

The Caps may not yet be done tinkering with their roster before Monday's deadline, but if you're expecting any major moves, any additions to the defense or a goalie trade, those options just are not on the table unless someone really surprises MacLellan with an offer he can't walk away from.

"Sometimes calls come in and are unexpected and bring up things," he said. "It's tough to say this is what we're going to do, but we're going to be open to whatever conversations we have."

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With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 3

With NHL season paused, a ranking of Capitals' best wins of 2019-20: No. 3

While we wait for the NHL to hopefully resume its season, NBC Sports Washington is looking back at the 20 best wins of the Capitals' season so far. Mark Zaner, producer for Caps Faceoff Live and Caps Overtime Live, has watched every game. His rankings continue with No. 3, a 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 9 that featured a complete effort from the Capitals, a first for Jonas Siegenthaler and some pregame espionage from Brent Johnson. 

You can re-watch the game tonight on NBC Sports Washington at 8pm. 


In a 2018 Stanley Cup Finals rematch, and perhaps a matchup you could see in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, Washington came out flying. Dmitry Orlov feathered a perfect two-line pass past three Golden Knights defenders and right to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had no problem beating Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 58 seconds into the game 


The Capitals make it 2-0 just minutes later. Amid a line change, the Knights coughed up the puck in their own end. Tom Wilson, who was about to go off the ice, jumped back into the attack and beat Fleury with a wrist shot. 


Two Vegas goals sandwiched a Siegenthaler tally to make it 3-2 Capitals entering the third period. Enter Nicklas Backstrom. His first goal came on the power play. With all the Knights attention focused on Ovechkin, Backstrom threw a wrister on Fleury from the right faceoff circle. Fleury got a piece of it, but let it trickle through for the score.  


Backstrom scored a rare empty-net goal late in the period instead of deferring to Ovechkin. The Capitals owned the third period on their way to an impressive 5-2 win. 


Siegenthaler made his NHL debut on Nov. 9 in 2018. Exactly one year later he scored his first career goal. Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd executed a picture-perfect dump-and-chase. Boyd waited in the corner for a line change and fed Siegenthaler, who was streaking to the net without anyone marking him. 



If you look at the rest of my Top 10 Caps wins, most of the games are exciting comebacks or see-saw affairs. Games that were generally exciting to watch or something crazy happened. This game makes the list because it’s peak Washington Capitals. This team was playing almost flawless hockey from the middle of October through the end of November. This was Washington’s sixth straight win. In this game, the Caps got more shots, earned more power plays, won more faceoffs, blocked more shots and out-hit their opponent. And they weren’t playing the Ducks (entry #9) or the Kings (#7). The Vegas Golden Knights were - and are - a legitimate Western Conference contender. I would argue that the Capitals win over Vegas was their best 60-minute effort against a quality opponent all season long.  

Backstrom was an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick. Backstrom and T.J. Oshie started a bit of a fight towards the end of the second period. Not a shock to see the Caps and Knights chirp at each other, but it was unusual to see those two at the center of it. 


If Fleury looked a little sluggish, he might have had a good excuse. NBC Sports Washington’s Brent Johnson, who played with Fleury in Pittsburgh, took his good friend out to a big steak dinner the night before the game. That’s how you work the long con. Good job, Johnny. 


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Holtby shuts out Islanders to start NHL 20 simulated playoffs with a Capitals victory

Holtby shuts out Islanders to start NHL 20 simulated playoffs with a Capitals victory

The Capitals opened the playoffs on the right foot on Wednesday with a 3-0 shutout victory in Game 1 over the New York Islanders in an NHL 20 simulation.

Result: Caps 3, Islanders 0

1st period

No goals

2nd period

1-0 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Tom Wilson and Brenden Dillon

A breakout pass from Dillon set-up a 3-on-2 rush for the Caps. Wilson fed the puck to the high-slot where Ovechkin one-timed it past goalie Semyon Varlamov into the top corner.

2-0 Caps goal: John Carlson, unassisted

The Islanders halted T.J. Oshie as he entered the offensive zone with the puck. A trailing Carlson picked up the loose puck and fired a slap shot that hit off the cross bar and planted itself on the goal line. Defenseman Andy Greene tried to take the puck off the line behind Varlamov, but accidentally knocked it over instead.

3rd period

3-0 Caps goal (empty-netter): Carl Hagelin, unassisted

Defenseman Scott Mayfield got a bit too cute in the offensive zone as he tried to bank a pass off the boards. It was intercepted by Hagelin who took it from the Caps' defensive zone to the other end of the ice, finishing off the game with the empty-net goal.

How the Caps won

1. The 2nd period

Things were pretty even after the opening frame. The Islanders were dominating in shots on goal 11-5, but the Caps had more higher-quality opportunities in what was, to that point, a scoreless game. Washington took complete control in the second period. Not only did Ovechkin and Carlson give the Caps a 2-0 lead, but the team put on a possession clinic, keeping the puck off the sticks of the Islanders at every turn.

The Caps outshot New York in the middle frame 7-0.

2. Braden Holtby

Despite misfiring in the second, the Islanders did manage a few quality shots and fired 11 shots on goal in the third period, but Holtby was there to turn each one of them aside. After not getting a shutout almost the entire season, Holtby now has two in as many simulations. He blanked the Florida Panthers in the regular-season finale as well.

3. Physical hockey

The blue and orange were left black and blue by the Caps who manhandled them physically throughout the game. New York had a tendency to hold onto the puck a bit too long looking for open passes and Washington made them pay each time. Carlson in particular was a wrecking ball. He was credited with only three hits, but in all three he knocked his opponent down to the ice.

Round 1 scoreboard

Washington leads New York 1-0
Philadelphia leads Pittsburgh 1-0
Boston leads Toronto 1-0
Tampa Bay leads Florida 1-0

Minnesota leads St. Louis 1-0
Colorado leads Dallas 1-0
Winnipeg leads Vegas 1-0
Edmonton leads Calgary 1-0

Next game

Game 2 will be simmed on Thursday.

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