In February, ahead of the NHL trade deadline, the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempný from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a third-round pick at the 2018 NHL Draft.
The trade came hot on the heels of a devastating 7-1 loss to Chicago, which prompted then-head coach Barry Trotz to call Kempný and reassure him. “I told him we’re not as bad as that game in Chicago. He was real happy about that.”
Adding Kempny to the lineup has been credited as one of the major reasons for turning the Capitals’ season around — though it wasn’t known then that that would mean earning their first Stanley Cup.
As much as Kempny gave to the Capitals on that road to their first championship, so to did the Capitals give back to him. In a conversation with TV Nova in the Czech Republic, Kempny called the Capitals his salvation.
“It was my salvation because I didn’t see any future in Chicago, and thank God the trade came because it pretty much saved my NHL career,” Kempny said. “When I came to Washington, of course, it’s a new environment. New teammates, new operations and the whole organization. But I have to say the boys gave me a really nice welcome and we had a great group of guys in Washington. They all made it easier for me and I had a lot of fun there.”
With the news that Kempny signed a four-year, $10 million contract to return to the Capitals next season, it is clear that being with the team was a turning point in his career.
“Speaking for myself, I don’t want to change something that worked,” Kempný said.
Much in the same vein as comments made by the recently re-signed Devante Smith-Pelly, the team dynamics and atmosphere seem to have played heavily into Kempný’s desire to stay.
“The team sucked me in completely. And, like I said before, it probably saved my NHL career. I’m honored that I could be a part of the team.”
Translations by RMNB’s Alexandra Petáková and Jana Kunová.
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