The Washington Capitals lost two young depth players to waivers on Monday and they will likely face another hairy decision in a matter of weeks.
Alex Alexeyev, the Capitals’ first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, is in limbo due to offseason surgery that will keep him out at the start of the season.
Alexeyev underwent a surgical labral repair on his left shoulder in June and his recovery time (four to five months) will keep him out until late October or November.
When Alex² returns, the Capitals will have a decision to make due to his unique roster situation.
Let me explain.
Currently, Alexeyev is with the Hershey Bears as he continues rehabbing his shoulder.
Via an October 2 press release from the Bears:
Defenseman Alexander Alexeyev has also been loaned to Hershey to continue his injury rehabilitation but cannot be officially added to the roster until he is healthy.
PuckPedia clarified Alexeyev’s official classification on the team’s roster to RMNB as of Monday, October 10.
“Since he’s on a two-way deal and was on the roster for less than 50 games last year, Alexeyev is considered season-opening injured reserve, which is pro-rated based on time on the roster,” PuckPedia explained. “He carries a $12,950 cap hit while injured. The Capitals can decide to put that as LTIR or not. Strategically it makes sense to wait and not include it today, and then add it to LTIR later this week.”
Once he’s at a point where he can play games, Alexeyev could be sent on a conditioning stint with the Bears. Whenever Alexeyev is deemed healthy after that, GM Brian MacLellan will have to figure out what he wants to do.
As pointed out by the Capitals’ Mike Vogel, Alexeyev will have to be returned to the Capitals’ 23-man roster or pass through waivers because he isn’t waivers-exempt anymore.
Alexeyev, 22, is in the final year of a three-year entry-level contract he signed in September 2018. The Capitals let the first two years of Alexeyev’s ELC slide before he first reported to the Hershey Bears in 2020-21.
Alexeyev is no longer waiver-exempt due to his late birthday on November 15. Even though Alexeyev was 18 when he signed his ELC, the NHL recognizes that year as his age-19 season due to his birthday falling after September 15. Alexeyev is only waiver-exempt for four years and since this is his age-23 season, the four years have already passed.
The Capitals have a couple of options: trade a player to make room for Alexeyev, risk losing Alexeyev via a waiver claim, or send another player down (if no one else is on injured reserve then). Potential candidates to be cut include defenseman Matt Irwin (waivers eligible) and forwards Connor McMichael (waivers exempt), Aliaksei Protas (waivers exempt), and Joe Snively (waivers eligible).
Irwin could be the odd man out as he is the team’s seventh defenseman and at age 34 would likely not be claimed. But he is also a longtime Laviolette acolyte whom the head coach trusts, which could prompt another decision entirely.
As of now, what to do with Alexeyev is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Alexeyev has played only one game in the NHL and that was due to the Capitals’ injury woes last season. The Russian rearguard is a left-handed shooter and seems to be at the same level of development as fellow first-rounder and lefty Lucas Johansen, who was among the team’s final cuts. Basically, at this point, Alexeyev is a tweener with upside. Would an NHL team that does not have much defensive depth put a claim on him looking for a possible steal? It’s possible but unclear.
What we do know is that Alexeyev’s rehab, as well as Tom Wilson’s, will be worth following as the season moves forward. If the Capitals don’t play their cards right, they could end up losing a fourth young player (Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, and Ilya Samsonov) without compensation before the year ends, further diminishing the team’s organizational depth.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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.