CHICAGO — Leading up to the Vegas Golden Knights’ Expansion Draft Wednesday, it seemed like the whole league was working on deals with Knights general manager George McPhee to keep players away from the new club. The Capitals, however, were unable to work out a deal to keep rising top-four defenseman Nate Schmidt in DC.
The 25-year-old restricted free agent, who will likely more than double his $812,500 salary from last season, was one of the league’s top possession defensemen and a smooth skating puck mover, something prized in today’s NHL. In the Capitals’ quest for the Stanley Cup in the 2017 playoffs, perhaps their best chance ever at capturing the iconic, franchise defining trophy, Schmidt was one of the team’s best players. Now he is gone from the roster, with nothing in return.
Capitals head coach Barry Trotz lamented the loss.
“Nate, we thought he was really coming,” Barry Trotz said at United Center Friday night during the first round of the 2017 Entry Draft “His speed — he brings a lot of energy. Every game he’s dynamic with his skating.”
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said he tried hard to keep Schmidt, but McPhee was demanding a high price for the undrafted defenseman he signed out of college during his tenure as the Caps’ GM. The Capitals made multiple offers, but Vegas held strong, demanding more assets than Washington was willing to give up.
“We made a couple of good offers, I think,” MacLellan said. “I think in the end, they really like Schmidt.”
And with that, the perpetually smiling, fan favorite defenseman with top-pair potential was gone.
Headline photo: Ethan Miller
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