Heading into the offseason after winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the Capitals were assured to come back next year with their top-9 intact and, after coming to terms with John Carlson on a massive deal, the possibility of their top-4 on defense still together as well. While the core was secured, many of the question marks in relation to next season were centered around the team’s depth.
Wednesday, one of those questions — would clutch playoff performer Devante Smith-Pelly, who potted seven goals in the postseason despite a pedestrian regular season, get an encore with Washington? — was answered before free-agency began. Smith-Pelly, now a fan-favorite, signed a one-year, $1 million deal to stick around with the Capitals. This was what he wanted all along.
“I had a couple other offers on one- or two-year deals,” Smith-Pelly said. “I just decided it wasn’t really worth it … it wasn’t worth it to leave somewhere where I’m happy and somewhere where I really want to be.”
The pieces fell into place for the winger. After bouncing through five organizations in four years, Smith-Pelly was welcomed by a close group of teammates and a city desperate for sports heros, instead of goats.
“This team is just incredibly close, so I’m incredibly comfortable there,” Smith-Pelly said. “And then the city, obviously the city has embraced me. It’s a beautiful place to live, so, like I said, the money, to me personally, is not that important if I’m not going to be happy somewhere else.”
While his team played into the decision, so did a desire for stability. Smith-Pelly has never played for the same team for two full consecutive years since he became a full-time NHLer.
“I mean, I’ve been in a couple places,” he said. “It would be nice just to stick into one place for a couple years and, hopefully, if it works out longer than just this one next year.”
For now, Smith-Pelly has found a home, a community, and he’s happy the Caps took a chance on a player well on his way to being a journeyman this early in his career. Thanks to the Caps and Smith-Pelly’s will to be back in DC, he’s finally caught on, even if just for another year.
“I love all my teammates, I love this city,” he said. “And obviously we won, so I was super happy there. But at that same time, that’s not to say I’m not thankful for the chance they gave me, for giving me a shot to be on this team.”
Headline Photo: Cara Bahniuk
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