ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals caused a bit of a stir Wednesday when the team decided to place Dmitrij Jaskin on waivers but ended up waiving Devante Smith-Pelly instead. One theory for the team’s abrupt about face was that Jaskin may have been included in trade talks with another team, so Washington could not risk putting him on waivers.
The Caps traded for Carl Hagelin on Thursday and for Nick Jensen on Friday. The NHL’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline came and went Monday with no further moves, and Jaskin still remains on Washington’s roster.
So what really happened when the team decided to waive Smith-Pelly instead of Jaskin?
“Just a decision,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “An internal decision.”
MacLellan explained that waiving Smith-Pelly was indeed motivated by an upcoming trade but not because Jaskin was part of any deal.
“The Hagelin acquisition, we needed to create cap space,” MacLellan said. “It was important I think to get Hagelin in, and we had two ways to do it. It was both Smith-Pelly or Jaskin that would need to go through waivers. We went back and forth on which one to waive a couple of times, and we changed our mind at the end and waived Smith-Pelly so we could do the Hagelin [trade]. We needed to create space to do the Hagelin transaction.”
Smith-Pelly was one of the playoff heroes of the Caps’ Stanley Cup run last season, scoring seven goals in the 24 postseason games.
This season has been a struggle, however, with Smith-Pelly managing only four goals and eight points in 54 games. He even struggled in training camp as he was reportedly held out for a majority of the preseason for being out of shape.
“I think [Smith-Pelly] didn't have the best training camp, didn't start off right,” MacLellan said. “Maybe expectations were that he was going to pick up where he left off in the playoffs, and he struggled getting back to that level.”
By placing Smith-Pelly on waivers, any team in the NHL could have claimed him. No one did. That can only be seen as an indictment of his play this season. He has since been reassigned to Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
This season may yet have a happy ending for Smith-Pelly, however, come the playoffs. When the regular season ends, the salary cap no longer applies. While the Caps may not have the money to keep Smith-Pelly on the roster now, it will not matter in the postseason and recalling several players from the AHL is a common move for playoff teams.
Given what Smith-Pelly was able to do last year, it seems likely that Washington would recall him at season’s end in the hopes he can recapture that magic for another playoff run.
“[It] doesn't mean we can't bring him back up here at the end too because we still have him in Hershey,” MacLellan said, “He'll work on his game and we'll have that option going down the stretch.”
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: