Lost in the abyss of the holidays, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had an interesting nugget about Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan in a late December “31 Thoughts” column.
In Friedman’s ninth thought, the reporter named several general managers who are without contracts for next season.
After listing GMs from four other teams, Friedman says, “I believe Brian MacLellan is on this list too.”
From Friedman’s article:
9. Doug Armstrong’s deserved post-Christmas gift is a four-year extension with the St. Louis Blues, with a club option for year five.
GMs without contracts for next season (that we know of): Jim Benning, Chuck Fletcher, Ken Holland and Lou Lamoriello — although I believe Brian MacLellan is on this list, too.
If Seattle gets any kind of conditional franchise over the next several months that is going to be a coveted job.
We were unable to confirm Friedman’s report. It’s also unknown if MacLellan has received a contract extension since this column was first published. The Capitals typically keep contracts of coaches and management private.
In May, Friedman also reported that Barry Trotz’s contract was up after this season.
“It has zero point zero effect on me actually. Not at all,” Trotz said in June. “I think it might have an effect 10, 12 years ago for me. Not now. It has zero effect. I’m not worried about that at all.”
Trotz was hired by Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and team president Dick Patrick before MacLellan was promoted to GM in 2014.
If Friedman’s report is true, MacLellan’s lack of job security could have potentially impacted his decision making during a pivotable offseason. After coming to the end of what MacLellan called a “two-year Stanley Cup window,” the team decided to stand pat and keep the roster as similar as possible to last year’s squad. This decision was made despite losing in the second round for the third consecutive season.
MacLellan signed TJ Oshie to an eight-year $46 million retirement deal and lost Nate Schmidt to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. The team retained important young players like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov longterm, but had to salary dump Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils because their deals were so unexpectedly high.
MacLellan has, at times, been defensive in the media explaining his moves, not understanding “what the stink” was about re-signing Oshie (unsustainably high shooting percentages) and describing the loss of Nate Schmidt as “not as huge a deal as people are making it out to be” (he’s now a first-pairing defenseman on the Western Conference’s best team).
One could assume that a general manager on an expiring contract could be less focused on the future of the roster and possibly be opposed to a more foundational change in his last year. That same point could be related to why MacLellan wants to lock down John Carlson long term. Other than Carlson being a good defenseman, a potential re-signing keeps the team’s foundation intact and limits the risk of the team falling off short term. It’s also another feather in MacLellan’s cap heading into a meeting with his superiors.
After a wobbly and at times disheartening first 20 games of the year, this iteration of the Capitals found their stride surging into first place of the Metropolitan Division in December. But there remains a lot of questions about the team’s underlying play, despite the Caps recent climb up the standings.
As of right now, the decision by Ted Leonsis and Dick Patrick to keep two lame ducks in two of the most important staff positions within the organization has worked out. If the team keeps winning, it’ll be interesting to see how much longer they keep the GM and coach squirming.
Additional reporting by Ian Oland.
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