Photo: Bruce Bennett
Let’s forego a flowery intro and get right to the point: Brian MacLellan crushed 2015 out of the park. The Caps GM had a spectacular year and currently presides over not only the hottest team in the NHL but the best team as well, according to the standings. Basically, Brian MacLellan was The Undertaker and 2015 was Mankind on top of the Hell in a Cell.
To celebrate MacLellan’s year, we’re going to revisit his three best moves of the past calendar year, with an honorable mention thrown in for good measure.
Not re-signing Joel Ward or Mike Green
Both Ward and Green were effective, veteran fan favorites and it’s easy to see how a GM could get sentimental and overpay for one or both of these guys to keep them around. Not Brian MacLellan, though. He knew he needed that cap space to go into gangster mode during the Summer of 2015.
Ward was a favorite of head coach Barry Trotz, scored some big goals during his time with the Caps, and plays the game in a way that earns him the respect of teammates and fans alike. But the fact is, Ward is in his age-35 season and will be 38 when his current deal expires. While players like Ward are effective and helpful to have around, the fact is that third-line wingers can be had for cheaper than a $3.275 million cap hit for three seasons. Given the abundance of capable wingers the Caps have on cheaper deals than Ward, the right value play here was to let him walk.
I’m a big supporter of Green. But he wasn’t going to play in the top-four anymore, and a cap hit of $6 million is too much for a guy who is going to get the fifth most amount of ice time among a team’s defenders. While the Caps are a better team with Green than without him, paying a guy so much money to play such a limited role is going to lead to big deficiencies elsewhere in the salary cap era.
Re-signing Braden Holtby to a 5-year, $30.5-million deal
Braden Holtby is a top-five goalie in the NHL and is just 26 years old. While a $6.1 million cap hit is a good value, the fact that the deal only runs until Holtby is 31 is spectacular. Often you’ll see players sign deals that take them well past their prime, and these players are willing to take a lower annual salary in order to get a longer term on the deal. The contracts of Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne are perfect examples of this.
But MacLellan isn’t playing that game. Nope. He signed Holtby for his prime years and the deal expires right around the time when netminders start to see a decline in performance. This doesn’t mean Holtby won’t have effective or even great seasons after the age of 31. But, the Caps have the luxury of deciding at that time how much those seasons are worth to them. Home run!
Signing Justin Williams to a 2-year, $6.5-million contract
This deal was recognized around the league as one of the shrewder signings of the offseason. The Caps are now reaping the rewards of the deal. Williams is a smart and reliable player and, for the most part, has been able to stabilize the possession numbers of any line he’s been placed on this season. His teammates have also credited him as having a calming presence on the group. What a joy it has been to watch number 14 play for the good guys this season.
Trading for TJ Oshie
I mean, come on.
I still can't believe the Blues thought Brouwer, a goalie prospect, and a pick was a fair return for Oshie.
— Pat Holden (@pfholden) December 23, 2015
Perhaps if the Blues were in a rebuild mode, we could accept that they were going with the Ted Leonsis plan of “a pick and a prospect.” But the Blues are a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, so my only guess is that the Blues front office made this deal while they were riding the snake in the desert while on a spiritual quest with Jim Morrison.
When I watch Oshie play, I’m amazed he’s only listed at 5′ 11″, 189 lbs. He’s tenacious as all hell on the puck to go along with top-six skill.
Seriously, can you believe the Blues made this trade?
Your turn! What’d I miss? What did I manage to get right? Leave your honorable mentions and finalists in the comments.
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