Quick Links

Ted Leonsis provides his thoughts on the Caps and the trade deadline

Ted Leonsis provides his thoughts on the Caps and the trade deadline

Ted Leonsis says he’s comfortable with the composition of the NHL-leading Capitals as the trade deadline approaches, but the veteran owner added that he’ll leave the decision to make a trade (or not) up to management.

“We’ve told Barry and Mac it’s totally their call,” Leonsis said prior to Wednesday’s game against Boston, referring to Head Coach Barry Trotz and General Manager Brian MacLellan. “If they want to add to the team, they are free to do that. If they want to stand pat, they are free to do that.”

The deadline is March 1.  

Although Leonsis says he’ll leave the decision up to Trotz and MacLellan, that doesn’t mean he’s without an opinion. He said he detects something special in the team’s chemistry this season and that he doesn’t see any glaring holes in the lineup.

“There does seem to be something very special in the chemistry of the team, so I know they’ll think long and hard about making a trade,” Leonsis said. “They [also] feel good that the young kids are now starting to hit their stride. [Evgeny Kuznetsov], two months ago, people were asking if he was in some sort of a slump. And now he’s just named player of the month.

“So,” Leonsis added, “we have a pretty good team, from goaltending to defense to our forwards. And so they’ll think long and hard about, do they make a trade and where do we have to improve? But there doesn’t seem to be a glaring need right now.”

Leonsis's comments are in line with what MacLellan told CSN last week when the general manager said, “We’ll explore everything, but I’m more comfortable with our depth than I have been the past two years.”

Entering the game against Boston, the Caps sat atop the league standings with 72 points—one clear of the Wild. Since the calendar flipped to 2017, in fact, Washington has accumulated more standings points (25), more wins (12) and scored more goals (65) than any other team.

“The strategy is pretty much set,” Leonsis said. “We want to have a good mix of youth and vets, which I think we do. We wanted to have great goaltending, and I think we have one of the better, if not the best, goaltending tandem in the NHL right now. So I’m happy for them. I’m proud of them. And they’ll do what they think is best.”

Asked if he planned to give any additional advice to Trotz and MacLellan as the deadline gets closer, Leonsis said he intends to stay out of it. Well, mostly.

“My advice is they are empowered,” Leonsis said. “And I believe in [Trotz and Mac]. And obviously the team has performed very, very well so they know what they’re doing. And since they know what they’re doing, how could I add value? And there’s a hard cap system in place so it’s not like I need it greenlight budget. I’ve said you can spend up to the cap.”

“Obviously,” he added with a chuckle, “if they’re going to trade one of our core players, they would run it by me—I hope— beforehand.”

MORE CAPS: Penalty kill has gone cold for Capitals

Quick Links

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not happy with Caps' Lars Eller

On Saturday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals faced off against one of the hottest young teams in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was viewed as a marquee matchup and it certainly lived up to its billing with both teams battling in a tight, well-played game.

In the end, Toronto walked away as the 4-2 victors in one of their better wins of the young season, but not everyone left that game impressed.

A team that already boasted super-star talent Auston Matthews added John Tavares in the offseason as a free agent giving the Maple Leafs a formidable one, two punch at center. For most of the game, the Caps were able to shut down that center tandem.

Lars Eller was asked after the game how the Caps were able to keep the Leafs’ big stars in check and he indicated that perhaps Tavares and Matthews were not as formidable a pair as they had been made out to be.

“We’re used to playing against [Sidney Crosby] and [Evgeni Malkin],” Eller said. “Everything kind of drops from there so it’s not that special. It’s a good team like a lot of others. They’ll probably be a playoff team, I think.”

Not surprisingly, that quote caught Toronto’s attention, especially forward Nazem Kadri.

Per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Kadri called Eller’s comments “bulletin board material.”

With 12 points in seven games, the Maple Leafs currently boast the top record in the league. Toronto is far from perfect, however, and their defense remains a major question mark in whether this team is a true Stanley Cup contender.

But as to whether or not they are a playoff team? That seems like a pretty safe bet.

The Caps and Maple Leafs will meet twice more this season on Jan. 23 and Feb. 21. Both games are in Toronto.  



Quick Links

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now


Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”