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4 things to know about the newest Cap, Nick Jensen

4 things to know about the newest Cap, Nick Jensen

Just one day after making Carl Hagelin the newest Capital, Brian MacLellan made another move by trading for defenseman Nick Jensen.

As a depth defenseman for a team outside of the Metropolitan Division, chances are you may not know all that much about him. Here are a few interesting facts you should know about the newest Caps’ defenseman.

Jensen did not make his NHL debut until he was 26

One reason you may not have heard that much about Jensen is because he has not been in the NHL all that long. In fact, he did not make his debut until he was already 26. Talk about a late bloomer.

Jensen was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 150th overall in the 2009 draft. He entered college a year later and played three years at St. Cloud State. He was signed by Detroit in May 2013 and spent three seasons in the AHL getting recalled to the NHL once, but did not play. Finally in his fourth season with Grand Rapids, Jensen was recalled and made his debut on Dec. 20, 2016. He even recorded an assist in that game. He stuck around and played 49 games for the Red Wings that season. In February 2017, he signed his current contract, a two-year extension with Detroit. That explains why his total cap hit is a meager $812,500.

This is not a player who takes things for granted or is going to come to Washington and be disgruntled at being a third-pairing defenseman after having a more significant role with the Red Wings. He had to fight just to keep his NHL hopes alive.

Jensen was a healthy scratch on opening night and has not missed a game since

Jensen’s season has taken everyone completely by surprise, even his now former team. Defensive depth is one of the major weaknesses of the Detroit Red Wings and Jensen had an opportunity to impress in training camp. He didn’t. Instead, he found himself a healthy scratch on opening night as four rookies were dressed over him.

That was not an encouraging start to the season, but Jensen has played in every game since then and logged over 20 minutes of ice-time per game. He even logged over 28 minutes in a game on Dec. 31 against Florida. From healthy scratch to 28 minutes shows just how much trust he has gained over the course of the season.

Detroit has had to lean on him not only for its lack of depth but also for a myriad of injuries and he seemed to handle each challenge with aplomb.

Jensen has two goals this season and scored them both in the same game

Brooks Orpik and Jensen were the only two players in the NHL last season to play at least 80 games without scoring a goal. That is not his strength and not what he is asked to do, but in this day and age getting production is important. Getting blanked for a full season prompted Jensen to seek help to revamp his shot.

Jensen met with former NHLer Scott Bjugstad in the offseason to discuss adjusting how he positions his stick when he shoots. That work paid off on Oct. 11 when Jensen scored two goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has not scored since.

The Caps ultimately acquired Jensen for what he can do on the defensive end on the ice, on the penalty kill and his ability to break the puck out and quickly get it to the forwards, but there may be more offensive upside there than you may think.

Let’s be clear, I am not saying Jensen is going to start suddenly lighting up the scoresheet or become the next Mike Green. But he put work into his shot and he was a pretty decent offensive player in lower levels. His 31 points in his last season in college ranked first among the team’s defensemen and in the 2014-15 season, he scored six goals and 27 total points in the AHL. In his first NHL season he scored four goals and 13 points in just 49 games. Even his former college coach, Bob Motzko, was not sure if he was more of a forward or a defenseman when he first started recruiting him in high school. Luckily for Jensen, he stuck to defense or his career trajectory most likely would not have taken him this far.

The point is, Jensen’s primary responsibility will be defense, but he may be able to contribute a tad more offense than we saw in Detroit.

Jensen’s new deal is the same as the one Michal Kempny signed in 2018

It took Madison Bowey and a second-round draft pick to get Jensen (and a fifth-round draft pick) which seems pretty high for a third-pair rental, but soon after it became clear why MacLellan was willing to give up so much as it was announced Jensen had signed a new deal for four years and $10 million.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Kempny signed for the exact same term and the exact same price in 2018.

Now yes, the two contracts are not exactly the same – there are some differences in the signing bonuses and base salary – but in terms of the salary cap the deals are identical.

You may scratch your head at this and wonder why MacLellan would be willing to give the same deal he gave a top pairing defenseman to a third-pair defenseman, but I would suggest you look at it the other way. I do not see this as an overpay on Jensen, a right-shot defenseman who is entering the prime of his career, but more evidence of how much a steal Kempny was both in terms of the original trade and to re-sign. That’s not to say there’s no risk in re-signing Jensen or that the new deal is an automatic home run, it’s far too early to tell. Time will determine whether we look back at re-signing Jensen as a prescient move or overly aggressive. 

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The season pause gave Braden Holtby a chance to 'fix a few things' in his game

The season pause gave Braden Holtby a chance to 'fix a few things' in his game

No team can make it far in the playoffs without good goaltending. That's what made the news of Ilya Samsonov's injury so tough for the Capitals. Sure, they still have Braden Holtby, but let's face it, it's been a bad season. Does he even still have it in him to lead the team in the postseason? After three round-robin games, the answer is an emphatic yes.

In a round-robin in which there were seemingly few positives for Washington, Holtby was one of them. He was the team's best player in the round-robin and he capped it off with 30 saves on 31 shots against the Boston Bruins on Sunday, the team's lone win.

Holtby looks like a completely different goalie than the one who managed just a .897 save percentage and 3.11 GAA in 48 regular-season games and that's because he is. The pause to the NHL season allowed Holtby time off to reset his game that he would not have in a normal season and he took advantage.

RELATED: CAPS VS. ISLANDERS NOT ONLY 'TROTZ VS. REIRDEN'

"Put a lot of work in the last couple months and had to fix a few things and work on a few things over the break to strengthen up," Holtby said, "And every game we played here you get a little more stamina and more and more comfortable."

It is pretty remarkable that Holtby was able to improve his game as much as he seems to have done considering that for much of that time, he could not even get on the ice. Yet, as the team prepares for the playoffs, goaltending no longer seems to be an issue. The loss of Samsonov means that the team is in trouble should Holtby struggle or get injured, but in terms of the starting netminder, Holtby is once again the guy. While that may have made fans nervous in January, fans can now be comfortable with that considering Holtby is playing his best hockey of the season.

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Caps and Islanders coaches downplay the personal matchup in Stanley Cup playoff series: 'It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden'

Caps and Islanders coaches downplay the personal matchup in Stanley Cup playoff series: 'It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden'

As the Capitals and New York Islanders prepare to square off in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all eyes will be on one matchup. It's not about the two goalies or how one defensive pairing matchups up against an offensive line, this matchup is off the ice. The storyline of this series is the men behind the bench, Todd Reirden and his predecessor, Barry Trotz.

Trotz was the head coach in Washington from 2014 to 2018 and led the Caps to the Stanley Cup in 2018. Reirden was on Trotz's staff as an associate coach in charge of the defense. Following the 2018 season, Trotz resigned and was hired as the head coach in New York, taking with him assistant coach Lane Lambert and goalie coach Mitch Korn. Reirden was hired as head coach of the Caps in the wake of Trotz's departure.

"It'll be a great challenge because I know the people over there," Trotz said of the series.

"Obviously we were able to accomplish something amazing together and that's something that you'll never forget as a staff," Reirden said. "That's never going to go away. It's unique now being on opposite benches and it has been."

When a team plays against its former head coach, comparisons between the two coaches are unavoidable. But even if the fans and the media look at this series as a commentary on the two coaches, the two men in question certainly do not.

"It's not Barry Trotz vs. Todd Reirden or any of those type of things," Reirden said. "It's going to be a team effort."

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They also downplayed any sort of advantage knowing each other may give them in the series.

"You've spent some time with a lot of their players, there's a lot of new players," Trotz said. "It just gives me a little insight on some of their tendencies, that's all."

The core in Washington may be the same, but there are a number of new faces on the roster who came after Trotz. The top-six on offense is the same, but players like Carl Hagelin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd all came after Trotz. Defensively, the team added Nick Jensen, Radko Gudas and Brenden Dillon.  Jonas Siegenthaler was in the organization, but did not make his NHL debut until the 2018-19 season.

RELATED: CAPS SECURE FIRST ROUND SERIES VS. ISLANDERS AFTER WIN OVER BRUINS

But even if they do not want to admit it, the familiarity between the coaches and players undeniably adds a different dynamic to the series.

The Caps know what kind of a coach Trotz is and how his teams like to play. Likewise, Trotz knows the level of talent on the roster in Washington so he knows the challenge that awaits the Islanders in the first round.

"They've got a lot of star power and they've won a championship," Trotz said. "They're well-equipped in a lot of areas, so the biggest challenge is to play them even and play them hard and they'll do the same because I know a lot about that group."

Trotz also added, "I think it will be a hell of a series."

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