The Capitals need a top-pair left defenseman and, to that end, it appears they are seeking to make sure the one they have does not make it to free agency. Washington is trying to re-sign defenseman Brenden Dillon and is trying to move money in order to do so, Elliotte Friedman wrote in his "31 Thoughts" column on Wednesday.
Dillon was a trade deadline acquisition by the Caps and the team now wants to make sure he does not turn into just a pure rental. The trade, however, did not seem to impact the team all that much considering they continued to struggle in the regular season and lost in just five games to the New York Islanders in their first-round playoff series. But bringing Dillon back is absolutely imperative for the Capitals considering how much Michal Kempny struggled.
Kempny underwent surgery to repair a torn hamstring in April 2019. Not surprisingly, he struggled when he returned for the 2019-20 regular season and did not appear quite right physically or mentally. What was more troubling, however, is that those struggles continued even after the NHL paused its season in March and the postseason did not begin until August. By then, Kempny had essentially been given an extra offseason to prepare for the playoffs and was more than a year removed from the surgery. Yet, he continued to struggle. He was bad enough that head coach Todd Reirden sat him as a healthy scratch the final three games against New York.
With Kempny out, Dillon stepped in and played well. His skillset appears to compliment John Carlson's well and Carlson is cemented on the right side of the top pair. With that in mind, it should come as no shock that general manager Brian MacLellan would want to bring Dillon back.
The question, however, what will it cost the Caps?
Friedman specifically said the team was looking to "move money" which means make a trade. One position in which the team can afford to move someone -- and in reality, will have to move someone -- is left defense.
Dillon is a left-shot defenseman, as is Kempny, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler, Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev. That's more than the team will be able to utilize. Of those, the only cap hits that are of any significance are Kempny's $2.5 million and Orlov's $5.1 million. Alexeyev is unlikely to make the NHL roster, Fehervary's cap hit is under $800,000 and Siegenthaler is a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights. That means any trade to free up cap room may include one of either Kempny or Orlov.
Free agency begins on Oct. 9 so the clock is ticking for MacLellan to make a trade and get a deal done with Dillon.