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 three topic-specific categories. [Click here for Part One and Part Two]. In Part Three, MacLellan addresses Nicklas Backstrom’s hip surgery, the progress of the team’s top prospects and his thought on 3-on-3 overtime:
On Backstrom’s recovery from hip surgery on May 27 and the impact it may have on re-signing Jay Beagle or Eric Fehr:
He should be more than likely ready at the start of the year. The surgery went well and it looks like he’ll be close to starting the year. So I don’t think that should be a reason to sign or not sign [another center]. I anticipate Nick playing most of the year next year. I don’t think that’s going to affect whether we sign an extra center or bring back one of our UFA guys. Those are independent decisions.
On when Backstrom is expected to be cleared to practice and play:
I think it’s uncertain. I know talking to the trainer and the doctor everything has gone well and they expect the rehab to go well. It’s hard for me to predict. Optimistically, I’m hoping he’s coming back for training camp.
On whether Backstrom’s injury affected his play:
There were periods it was more sore than other periods, and it might have affected it. He managed it and it kind of went in and out on him with the amount of discomfort he had.
On which prospects he anticipates challenging for a spot with the Capitals in 2015-16:
[Stanislav] Galiev, we’re going to give a good chance to. I think he earned it last year [25 goals, 45 points in 67 games with AHL Hershey]. [Jakub] Vrana played really well at the end of the season in Hershey [2 goals, 9 assists in 13 regular season and playoff games with Hershey]. Ideally, I don’t think we want him on the [Capitals] roster unless he makes it really difficult for us not to have him on there. But I would anticipate him being in Hershey for next season. Other than that, I think Schmitty [Nate Schmidt] and [Dmitry] Orlov will be in. We’ll take a good look at [goaltender Philipp] Grubauer. Those would be the main guys.
On the NHL general managers’ approval of 3-on-3 overtime:
I think it’s going to be exciting for the game. I think more games will be decided in overtime. I think it will be really entertaining for the fans. I think it should be a good thing. Talking to management and coaches and players in the American League, they were really happy with it.
On if the intent is to minimize the number of games decided by shootout:
I think in the [NHL] managers’ meeting that was the general point. We wanted less games decided by a shootout, to get the percentage of games settled that way down, and I think the 3-on-3 will accomplish that.