ARLINGTON, Va. -- Jonas Siegenthaler has been here before. One year ago he looked like a lock to make the Capitals roster out of training camp. In fact, as the team prepared for the start of the season, he was told he had made the team. Then Tom Wilson was suspended and the Caps needed to clear cap space for his replacement. Thus, the waiver-exempt Siegenthaler was sent down to the Hershey Bears.
Siegenthaler eventually did get called up to Washington and played in 26 NHL games last season. He also played in four playoff games, eventually playing on the top pair next to John Carlson in place of the injured Michal Kempny.
Despite what he accomplished last season, however, clearly making the team for the start of the season means something to Siegenthaler.
“It's my goal,” he said. “I haven't had the chance to walk on the red carpet on opening night. I think that's pretty special and that's for sure one of my goals.”
With the Caps so close to the salary cap ceiling, however, Siegenthaler comes into camp knowing he will have to once again earn his spot on the roster.
Christian Djoos is in a similar position.
Djoos’ resume is longer than Seigenthaler’s as he played in 22 playoff games in Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup. He was not able to build on that momentum the following year, however, as he suffered compartment syndrome in his thigh and the resulting surgery kept him out from mid-December to early-February.
“Last year was a weird year,” Djoos said. “Injured, played, scratched. It was just a weird year so I need to be better over the 82 games.”
Though he denied the injury still impacted him after his return, Djoos did not look like the same player and played in just 45 games.
Djoos now faces an uncertain future with the franchise because of the cap.
“We all know the situation,” Djoos said. “It's nothing I think about. I'm here right now. I'm happy to be here and excited to get the season going.”
With only three more preseason games and just over a week of training camp remaining, both players find themselves in a similar position with higher expectations and having to prove they deserve a spot on the roster over the young prospects nipping at their heels.
“We have a couple of young guys who have played well,” general manager Brian MacLellan said at media day. “[Martin] Fehervary played really well in the rookie camp. He looks like he’s going to be a good player. [Alex] Alexeyev played good the one game and then got hurt. Those are good young players, good prospects. Siegenthaler has progressed well. I think he’s going to be a good player in this league and he should come in at a higher level this year than he has last year. I thought he finished up well. Djoos, we’re looking for a rebound season. I think the injury set him back, so it’s important for him to have a good camp and a good start to the year.”
“That's how it is, I think,” Djoos said. “It's a great organization, great young players. ... That's good I think that we compete for every spot. That's a good thing.”
When asked what they wanted to improve on for this season, both Siegenthaler and Djoos said consistency.
While the salary cap is tight, there is a possibility that both players make the final roster. If that happens, both will get time on the third pairing which will mean cycling in and out again as they did last season. The lack of consistent playing time can often lead to a lack of consistent play. Both players know that is not going to cut it this season.
Siegenthaler also said he has worked on improving his skating and he entered camp feeling more confident about his chances after last year.
“If you have confidence, you just play your game,” he said. “It just comes automatically so you've got to have a healthy confidence.”
Siegenthaler is certainly confident but also determined. He came oh so close to starting the season on the NHL roster last year only to see it slip away at the last moment. This year, he is determined not to let that happen.
“I want to walk onto the red carpet,” he said. “I'll do everything to be on the carpet.”
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