Taylor Chorney

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Taylor Chorney knew his team would have to face the Caps in the playoffs

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Taylor Chorney knew his team would have to face the Caps in the playoffs

Taylor Chorney knew this was going to happen.

Heading into the final day of the regular season, there were still three possible opponents for the Caps for the first round of the playoffs. There were so many scenarios for which team would finish where in the standings, it was hard to keep track of them all.

But Chorney knew his Columbus Blue Jackets were ultimately going to end up playing the Caps.

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“I started seeing the way things were going to shake up and I just kind of figured it was going to happen,” Chorney said after practice on Saturday. “I knew that the way it was working out and we were playing well, there was only a couple teams we could face and I figured, why not play these guys just the way it's been going so far? It's just sort of the way it worked out.”

Less than two months ago, Chorney was a member of the Washington Capitals. The trade for Michal Kempny forced the team to place Chorney on waivers, however, where he was claimed by Columbus.

Now as the Blue Jackets face Washington in the first round, Chorney finds himself representing the visitors against the team he signed with back in 2015.

“It's a little bit weird coming into the rink for that last game,” Chorney said. “The time of the year, it's springtime. You've experienced that before coming up to the rink where it's nice outside, everyone's got the jersey on.”

“The hard part, you've got some good buddies over there that it's tough,” he added. “Maybe you see yourself playing with them a little bit longer, but there's a great group of guys here too. They've been super welcoming.”

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Considering he was with Washington just a few weeks ago, however, Chorney’s new teammates have been probing him to see if there is any inside info he can give them to help them in this series.

“Guys have wanted to know and even some of the coaches, just some little tendencies and stuff,” he said. “But everybody watches so much video nowadays and it's not like I've got any secrets that are going to swing the series one way or the other.”

Chorney has a similar role in Columbus as he did in Washington as a depth defenseman. He has only played in one game for the Jackets and it seems unlikely he will suit up against the Caps unless there are injuries on the blue line.

Playing against his former teammates would be about the only thing that could make this series weirder for Chorney. If called upon, though, he would be ready.

“You hate to be too cliche, but it really is kind of just part of the business. You've got to be able to take your time or you kind of process it and try to turn the page as quick as you can.”

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

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Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.

Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 20 Taylor Chorney.

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One of the more interesting storylines during training camp is going to be the battle along the blue line and where everyone, particularly a veteran like Chorney, fits into the plan as the Caps skew a bit younger.

The top pair is easy to figure out; it’ll be Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

After that, it gets a little more interesting.

John Carlson will be on the second pair, perhaps with Aaron Ness.

If that's how things shake out, it would make sense to have Brooks Orpik anchor the third pair, especially if the No. 6 spot goes to a rookie since they'd surely benefit from the steady hand of a soon-to-be 37-year-old.

But will that spot go to a youngster like Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey or someone else? 

Or will it go to Chorney, a 30-year-old who's appeared in 141 NHL games spread over eight seasons for four clubs?

The Caps anticipate that Djoos and Bowey are closer to being NHL-ready than their other defenseman prospects.

Djoos lit up the AHL last season to the tune of 58 points in 66 games and the team needs to replace some offense. Bowey, meanwhile, has the look of a promising two-way defenseman.

But here’s the drawback—and where Chorney, in my opinion, fits into the equation.

Neither Djoos nor Bowey have done it yet. And until they do, no one can be 100-percent sure they’re completely ready to handle the everyday duties that the NHL demands. 

Chorney, to that end, has a significant advantage in experience, at a position where it matters a lot. He appeared in 18 games last season and a career-high 55 games the year before, also with the Caps. 

The bottom line: I suspect Chorney, who is entering the final year of his contract, will open camp penciled in as the team’s No. 6/7.

I also expect that he'll play a decent amount this season, maybe more than last year but perhaps less than 2015-16. I could even see him in the opening night lineup. Eventually, though, the Caps will want to see Djoos, Bowey or another youngster squeeze their way past Chorney and into the lineup full-time.        

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly