Just where does Conor Sheary fit in Washington?


The Capitals looked to address one of their few remaining areas of need with the signing of forward Conor Sheary. Just where he will fit into the lineup, however, is not yet clear.

Washington got zero goals from their bottom-six in the playoffs and moved on from Ilya Kovalchuk in the offseason. Depth scoring was an obvious area of need heading into the offseason, but with limited cap space and more pressing issues such as goaltending and right defense, general manager Brian MacLellan was not able to address that need until just before Christmas.

With Henrik Lundqvist headed to long-term injured reserve at the start of the season, the Caps suddenly had a bit more cap flexibility and made quick use of it with the signing of Sheary to a one-year deal for only $735,000.

At first glance, Sheary will most likely slot in at third line right wing, the spot vacated by Kovalchuk. MacLellan, however, says the real benefit to adding Sheary is the flexibility it gives to the team offensively.

"I think we've got a competitive situation in our bottom-six," MacLellan said. "I view [Sheary] as a middle-six forward, adds speed to the lineup, adds some offense. I think he's a guy that the coaches could move around and be flexible with. He's played right wing, he's played left wing, he's played up in the lineup so I think he's a real good option for us to give our coaches some flexibility in their lineup decisions."

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Sheary is the type of player who will play up (or down) to the role he is given. When he played on a line with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, Sheary scored 23 goals and 30 assists in just 61 games. In 2019-20, a season in which he split time with Pittsburgh and Buffalo, Sheary averaged the lowest ice time of his career and scored only 10 goals and 13 assists in 63 games.

Sheary is going to be a disappointing player if he gets relegated to the fourth line and does not get much ice time. His stats will reflect that. If given the opportunity, however, he has shown he can produce and is the type of player who can be plugged into the top six when needed.

That provides a measure of flexibility Washington just did not have last season.

As for whether MacLellan has any last-minute moves up his sleeve to add more talent to the roster, he said he is always looking for ways to improve the team.

"I think we're always open to making changes and improving," MacLellan said. "I think we'll get a better sense through camp where everybody's at and probably evaluate there. As of now, I think we're happy, but I think we'll continue to look at possibilities through free agency or trade market which we should be doing."