Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan spoke with the media shortly after the NHL trade deadline passed at 3 PM.
MacLellan spent a majority of his talk focusing on the acquisition of forward Ilya Kovalchuk from the Montreal Canadiens for a third-round pick. The Stanley Cup-winning GM sees Kovalchuk fitting in on the team’s third line, replacing Richard Panik on the right wing. “We can start him in our bottom six and move him up for shifts, depending on the coaches. I just think it gives our coaching staff a lot of flexibility.”
Mac added that he spoke to Kovy and the Olympic gold medalist was willing to take any role that was needed on the team to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
“I’ve talked to him a couple times about accepting a role and he’s pretty clear in his mind that he’ll do anything as long as he has a chance to win a championship,” MacLellan said.
A full transciption of MacLellan’s interview follows.
Why Ilya Kovlachuk?
Brian MacLellan: “I think he’s a good fit for what we need. I think he’s an established player. So many good reports and viewings of what he did in Montreal. We think he’s a fit for our team. We think he can add a lot offensively, playmaking. So many good things have been said about him on and off the ice in Montreal that we basically thought it was a no brainer to add him.”
Will he play on the powerplay or PP2?
Brian MacLellan: “He might. I think that’s an option. The good thing about the acquisition is we can move him around. Play him in different spots. He’s a powerplay player. He’s probably a second powerplay player for us unless something’s going on and we want to change it up. We can start him in our bottom six and move him up for shifts, depending on the coaches. I just think it gives our coaching staff a lot of flexibility to use the player.”
Where do you ideally see him playing?
Brian MacLellan: “I’d probably start him third-line right wing. Start him there and see how it goes and move him around.”
What was Ovi’s reaction?
Brian MacLellan: “Yeah, I think Ovi’s been good. Obviously, they’re good friends. They know each other really well. I think they talked beforehand that they’d like to play together, but Ovi had a good approach to it, saying, ‘If it makes sense, I’d like for it to happen and if it doesn’t make sense, then it’s not meant to be.’ He kind of had a mature attitude about it.”
What have you seen from the third line that you’d like to change?
Brian MacLellan: “I think the third line’s been good recently. I think the intention of it, the way we put it together, was that it wasn’t going to be as offensive as last year, but you could trust it more against top six players against other teams. They’ve had reasonable offensive output and played a pretty solid two-way game for most of the year.”
Is this intentionally a chance in philosophy there?
Brian MacLellan: “It could be. We don’t have to go with it. I think the Kovalchuk thing gives us options. If we need offense, use him in that situation and if we don’t, we can leave the line the way it is.”
It sounded like he wanted to come here.
Brian MacLellan: “I think he views our team as a chance to win a championship and that’s his main priority. I think he likes the style of play that we had. I’ve talked to him a couple times about accepting a role and he’s pretty clear in his mind that he’ll do anything as long as he has a chance to win a championship.”
Did you have any discussions today on Trade Deadline Day?
Brian MacLellan: “A little bit. We checked in on a few things. A lot of calls the last week and previous weeks too. Checked in on a few things today and played them out as much as we could.”
Could you have brought on another player without parting with salary?
Brian MacLellan: “I think we would have had to part with salary.”
Did you come close to something?
Brian MacLellan: “You’re always close. I think we’re satisfied where we’re at right now. I added two, I perceive to be, two key pieces and we made our team better and more well-rounded.”
Did yesterday’s win have anything influence on how you approached today?
Brian MacLellan: “No. Our intention is always, what’s the best thing for the team? We can add a guy that makes our team better and deeper and gives us a better chance to win, we’re going to pursue it.”
Are you satisfied with Brenden Dillon so far?
Brian MacLellan: “I like it. I like it a lot. I thought he had a great game against Pittsburgh. Jersey game probably didn’t get used as much. I think he’s added physicality. I think he’s added good puck movement. His first pass has been good. Seems to fit in well so far. It’s not easy to just come in to a new team and fit in and I think he’s handled it pretty well.”
What kind of research did you do before adding the two players?
Brian MacLellan: “Quite a bit. Especially with Kovalchuk. I think Dillon was going to fit. It just seemed like it was gonna fit. I think having conversations with Ilya about will he be willing to accept a type of role. I know in Montreal he was playing probably a little bit more than he’s going to play here. Would he be able to accept that role and be okay with it. He’s pretty clear in his mind that he’ll do whatever’s asked of him.”
What do you make of Kovalchuk’s unique season where he struggled with the Kings and turned it around with the Canadiens?
Brian MacLellan: “It’s difficult for me to analyze what happened in LA not being there and his situation. He was available for all the teams in the league and because of that experience in LA, I think one team took a risk on him. To completely turn it around the way he did, to be as productive and to have as much impact as he had on the Montreal team both on and off the ice, I think their manager Bergevin couldn’t say enough good things about the character of the guy and how he handled himself in Montreal.”
Did you have any interest when he was available from the Los Angeles Kings?
Brian MacLellan: “We talked about it quite a bit, but it was tough to get a read where he was at, his game, because of his experience in LA. And then at that point in time, it would have been tough to fit him in for the cap. We’re getting him at half of 700. It’s a little better doing now than back then.”
In his prime, he was a very similar player to Ovi. What is he now?
Brian MacLellan: “I think he’ has a little bit more speed than we think he has. He’s just a lesser version of what he was. You’ll probably see glimpses of what he was at that time. He still has good hands. He still has a good skill level. He’ll probably score some good goals and make some good plays. Probably not as consistent, or in the amount, of his prime.”
With him joining the third line, that’ll push Panik to the fourth line.
Brian MacLellan: “That’s a coach’s decision what they want to do. I imagine they’ll try different combinations there.”
Overall it adds more depth to the bottom six.
Brian MacLellan: “Definitely. Depending on the lineup he wants to create, he can move bodies around.”
What do you look to see when you bring in someone new?
Brian MacLellan: “You want guys to be comfortable with their roles, ice time. You want them in the right frame of mind to fulfill their potential and sometimes you gotta sell them on ‘maybe you don’t play as high as much as you might somewhere else but the goal here is to contribute to a team and our team overall will be better off’ if everyone accepts their roles. You have a better chance of winning a championship.”
You’ve made a lot of trades over the years – some have work, others haven’t. Does it send a message to the room that we’re good enough, we’re adding pieces, now it’s up to you.
Brian MacLellan: “I think the managers feel pressure. If you have a good team and you want to contend, I think you feel pressure to add at the deadline. I think the team expects you to. The players want you too. And the better players you can add, the more satisfied they are. Even if it’s not the best deal you can make, I still think it sends the proper message and the players expect you to contribute to the lineup.”
Were you surprised by how much movement there was today across the league – especially in the Metro?
Brian MacLellan: “Metro was pretty active. There’s a lot of good teams in the Metro and we’re all pretty close talent wise. I think it’s a tough division. Each team could beat the other team on any given night given good goaltending. I think every one of these teams thinks they have a chance to come out of the Metro, which I believe they do. So consequently, you start to see ‘how do we fill out our lineup? How do we maximize it?’ I think every team in our division did it.”
How good do you think the division is now?
Brian MacLellan: “I thought we were all pretty close going into it and now I think we’re all still close, just better teams. I think everybody did a good job in our division and it’s gonna be hard to get out of it.”
Did yesterday’s win against the Penguins make you feel better about some things?
Brian MacLellan: “It was an important game for us. It was a big game. We’re sliding lately – our record and our habits – and you see a lot of the improvements in that game. I don’t think it’s where we want it to be going into the playoffs but a lot of the things we’ve been lacking in previous games were corrected in that game. So I think we’re trending in the right direction but I still think we have a ways to go to be playing the right way.”
Does your experience with this team help you endure bad stretches like this?
Brian MacLellan: “I don’t think you’re ever comfortable with it. I think you got to take a few deep breaths and look at the big picture and kinda weight how we were playing at the beginning of the year and we went through a lull here, a slide, and probably in the way we’ve been playing. When you’re successful and you’re doing real well, you’re leading your division, habits start to slide a little bit because you can cheat a little bit, you got a little cushion, you’re winning games maybe you don’t always win. And slowly that builds up and all of a sudden you find yourself – we need to address these things. And hopefully we’re doing that right now.”
How did you approach the deadline with having an older roster that you have to win now with while also valuing future assets.
Brian MacLellan: “I think well always struggled to… what we’re adding versus what we’ve given up. I thought it was important we kept our first-round pick. We had an extra third. Did we want to spend the second? If you want to add players at the deadline, you have to spend seconds and thirds and it’s whether you want to do the first. So we’re trying to balance, improving our lineup, while still giving us the ability to draft some higher-end players.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.