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Capitals contemplate trading future for present

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Capitals contemplate trading future for present

In a conference call with reporters previewing tonight’s NHL draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., [6:30 p.m., NBCSN] Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed a variety of subjects, including the Caps’ strategy regarding trades, free agency and the desire to add the pieces that could bring a long-awaited Stanley Cup to Washington.

We’ve condensed the conversation into topic-specific categories. In Part Two, MacLellan addresses the Caps’ strategy heading into tonight’s draft and the possibility of trading the Caps’ first-round selection, 22nd overall:

On the possibility of trading the Capitals’ first-round pick:

I’d be open. Right now I’d say it’s more than likely we’re making the pick. To give up that pick you’d have to have a pretty good impact player coming back – a player we feel would have an impact on our team and get us to the next level.

On the possibility of trading goaltender Justin Peters, who is on a one-way contract and appears to be ticketed for the AHL Hershey Bears with the recent signing of Philipp Grubauer to an NHL contract:

I think we’re going to let it play out. I think everybody is comfortable with what Grubi did when he was called up. Peters had a difficult situation that he played through. We’ll see how we start at camp, how everybody’s doing, and we’ll make our decision based on that.

On filling the void at top-line right wing through a trade or free agency:

We’re exploring both options. The UFA market, there’s a few possibilities. Like always, there are names that are possibilities that work in that spot We’re making calls every day and monitoring the market and trying to see if we could fill that spot and do it in a good way, without giving up too much.

… Depending on the quality of player, we’re trying to establish what we can do [in a trade] value-wise and what makes sense for us money-wise and pick-wise and value-wise, and see if we can find a match with someone that’s willing to trade a guy we like.”

On if he feels, with the way the Capitals are currently constructed, time is of the essence to make a deal for the present:

I do. We’ve got a window and we need to make decisions that are more present oriented than looking to the future. But you can’t sacrifice the future because we’ve got a lot of good young players also.

On the amount of trade activity he expects leading up to and during tonight’s draft:

Teams are constantly talking. There are a few names out there. Whether they happen or don’t happen I’m not sure. There are guys calling around trying to establish a market for players and what [teams are] willing to pay. It’s a process that goes on every draft.

On whether he would trade a late-round pick for the rights to a pending unrestricted free agent:

I wouldn’t.

On whether he would trade the rights to one of the Caps’ pending free agents [Mike Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr] for another team’s draft pick:

I don’t think we’re at that point to do that. It might happen as we get closer to the draft but at this time I would not consider that.

On the quality of player the Caps may find if they hold onto their first-round pick at No. 22:

We’ve gone over it the last few days. Our amateur staff have a couple guys they’ve identified at approximately our level that we might have a shot at. There are two or three players that are really good players who have some good upside. We have to let the draft play out, but I think there’s some good players that will be available at our spot at 22.

On the need for taking a defenseman in the first round, something the Caps have not done since drafting John Carlson 27th overall in 2008:

The philosophy is going to be to draft the best player available, that has the most upside. We’ll continue with that, whether it’s a defenseman, a center or a winger. We’re not going to draft by position only. We’re going to be looking for a guy that we think can play at a high level. … If it has to take him three or four years and he’s going to be the better player in three or four years, it’s a projection game. The one that has the highest potential in our minds would be the one we pick.

MORE CAPITALS: PART ONE OF MACLELLAN DISCUSSION

 

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Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

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Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

Very few teams have the luxury of having a backup goalie they can rely on for an extended period of time while the starter goes through a massive slump. The Capitals had that luxury in 2017-2018 thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Not every team in the NHL has a dependable starter, let alone backup, so when a backup goalie goes 15-10-3 in a season with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, that is likely to catch the attention of general managers around the league.

The 2018-19 season will likely be a season of transition for the Capitals behind Braden Holtby. General manager Brian MacLellan expressed his willingness Wednesday to possibly trade backup goalie Philipp Grubauer this offseason. With the season he just had, he could potentially yield the Caps a solid return.

But, if Grubauer is indeed moved, that leaves the question of who will play backup for the Capitals this season?

The initial plan appears to be to promote Pheonix Copley from the AHL.

“Yeah, I think he's capable of it,” MacLellan said when asked if he saw Copley as an NHL backup. “Obviously, he's unproven. I think he's done what he could do at the American League level. Got through probably a little bit of a tough patch this year recovering from an injury, but I think he has potential to be that guy, yes.”

Copley, 26, played last season with the Caps’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears. He had a tough season with a 2.91 GAA and .896 save percentage in 41 games.

As MacLellan alluded, Copley suffered a serious injury at the end of the previous season and it clearly affected his season. The year prior, Copley managed a 2.15 GAA and .931 with Hershey in 16 games. He was considered Washington’s No. 3 goalie this season and was recalled for the playoffs as an emergency backup behind Grubauer.

Copley’s career includes only two NHL games.

There is another internal candidate who some fans may be hoping to see next season. That of course, is 2015 first-round draft pick Ilya Samsonov.

Samsonov, 21, signed an entry-level contract with Washington in May and will make the jump from the KHL to North America next season.

But don’t expect to see Samsonov backing up Holtby to start the NHL season.

Samsonov will be adjusting to the North American game and the smaller North American rink. Because of that, MacLellan believes he will benefit from time in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.

"I think he needs time in Hershey,” MacLellan said. “We'll start him in Hershey I would anticipate and see how he grows, see how he gets accustomed to the small rink and hopefully get some good coaching, get our guys in that work with him. It'll be up to him. I think he'll adapt fairly quickly given his skill set.”

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Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

“I didn't think I'd be here a year ago,” Devante Smith-Pelly told the media Wednesday. “That's for sure.”

In 2017, Devante Smith-Pelly was a member of the New Jersey Devils and thought that’s where he would play the 2017-18 season. Instead, Smith-Pelly was bought out of the final year of his contract, something that he was not prepared for as he only received word of the team’s decision on the same day they made the move.

New Jersey’s loss turned out to be Washington’s gain as the Caps signed Smith-Pelly for one year and he proceeded to score seven goals during the Capitals’ postseason run to the Stanley Cup.

“Obviously, at the start of the year, not knowing exactly where I would be to at the parade on Constitution, it's crazy," Smith-Pelly said. "I haven't really sat down and taken it all in, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I had an amazing time this year. Obviously, it's the best year of my life.”

Now as a restricted free agent, Smith-Pelly is hoping he has found a home in Washington.

Despite being only 26-years-old, Smith-Pelly has already had somewhat of a journeyman’s career. The Caps are the fifth team in which he has played for.

The issue for much of Smith-Pelly's career has been consistency.

The 2018 playoffs was not his first breakout performance. He scored five goals in just 12 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014, but he failed to live up to that level of production again until this year’s postseason with Washington.

“I don't think I needed to prove anything,” Smith-Pelly said. “I knew what I could do, it's just me getting a chance to do it and that's it. I got a chance here and I guess it worked out.”

Expecting him to score seven goals every 24 games in the regular season is likely unrealistic, but the Caps don’t need him to do that. Smith-Pelly developed a role with the Caps being a bottom-six player, a role that he thrived in throughout the season.

“He's become a big part of the team,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He brings good energy, he's a good teammate, he's well-liked. You could tell the teammates really migrate towards him, they like him and then the crowd also likes him. They're chanting 'DSP' all the time so it's been fun to watch how he's got everybody to embrace him and his personality.”

Given when Smith-Pelly was able to do in the postseason, it is no surprise that the Caps would be interested in keeping him around. But at what cost?

Smith-Pelly was a bargain for Washington last season with a cap hit of only $650,000. He will be due a raise, but with John Carlson expected to get a monster contract, how much will general manager Brian MacLellan be willing to spend on a bottom-six winger like Smith-Pelly?

Despite the phenomenal postseason, Smith-Pelly had only seven goals and 16 points in the entire regular season. When it comes to a new contract, MacLellan will likely want to pay for that player while Smith-Pelly will no doubt look to be paid like the player who scored seven times in 24 playoff games.

As of Wednesday when he spoke with reporters, Smith-Pelly said he had not yet had any talks with the team about a new contract, but also noted that, as a restricted free agent, “there’s no real rush.”

The Caps own Smith-Pelly’s rights which helps their bargaining position. Smith-Pelly, however, is arbitration eligible and his postseason stats will undoubtedly bump his value when viewed by a neutral arbitrator.

But there's a good chance it may not get anywhere close to that point.

“On the ice and off the ice I feel like this is the best situation I've been in,” Smith-Pelly said. “Obviously, never know what's going to happen but I found a place and I want to be back.”

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