The Washington Capitals acquired Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks on February 18 for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The move sturdied first-pairing defender John Carlson and a struggling Capitals blue line that was hemorrhaging goals at a concerning rate during the second half of the season.
“Brenden is an experienced defenseman who plays a solid defensive game with a high compete level and physicality,” general manager Brian MacLellan said at the time. “We felt it was important for us to add a player of his caliber to our defensive group.”
Dillon, who is in the final year of a five-year, $16.35 deal, was only meant to be a rental, but it appears the relationship could extend past the 2020 playoffs. Tuesday, Dillon revealed his agent and Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan have talked about a contract extension.
"I think over the last couple weeks, months, I've definitely gotten a lot closer with a few of the guys. Bought myself an Xbox, having a couple tee times with a few of the the guys during the weeks."
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 14, 2020
“I think right from getting here we’ve had mutual talks amongst my agent and Brian (MacLellan) – those things are kind of confidential with them,” Dillon said. “Again for me as a player and being part of the Caps, it’s been awesome and hopefully, I can be here.”
Part of the difficulty of bringing Dillon back will be the NHL’s flat salary cap, which will remain at $81.5 million next season due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The cap will not go up in future years until total revenue reaches $4.8 billion. Before the pandemic suspended the season, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projected the cap could be as high as $88.2 million.
The Caps have several players who are unrestricted free agents this fall, including Braden Holtby ($6.1 million cap hit), Radko Gudas ($2.35M), and Ilya Kovalchuk ($350k) while Alex Ovechkin is the team’s lone UFA in 2021.
Dillon could fit into the Capitals’ puzzle if third-pairing defenseman Radko Gudas leaves in free agency. During the pandemic, Gudas admitted he was unlikely to be re-signed by the Caps.
“I think there’s no chance [of re-signing with Washington],” Gudas said in May. “They are grappling with the salary cap. They have young players who will play under contracts more feasible for [the organization]. I think a lot of the guys with contracts about to expire will leave Washington.”
If the Capitals end up re-signing Dillon, they could turn to Martin Fehervary, who is on an entry-level contract, for a full-time spot on the third pairing while still potentially having enough money to re-sign Braden Holtby. First-round pick Alex Alexeyev is also rapidly developing and joined the team’s playoff roster potentially as a black ace.
“I’m happy with being a Washington Capital from Day 1 when I came here with the trade,” Dillon said. “They made me feel right at home. I think the system, the way we play from the D-corps on, I feel a big part of things here. I feel even better now and I think myself now, to have a couple weeks of a training camp to get even more acclimated and kind of understanding things, I think it’s going to pay huge dividends.”
Dillon also admitted over the last few months he’s become closer to his new teammates.
“[I] bought myself an Xbox, having a couple tee times with a few of the guys during the weeks,” Dillon said. “I think when it comes to the hockey side of things, to watch a little bit more video, to have conversations in these informal skates we’ve been having the last couple weeks, just to get to know guys and I already feel a lot more comfortable already from Day 1, I feel better just talking amongst the D-partners. You feel better. I think confidence is a big thing for any sort of athlete. When you have that, I think it’s only going to pay dividends.”
Screenshot courtesy of the @Capitals
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