By Ian Oland
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir reported last week that Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan met with the team’s captain, Alex Ovechkin, as the Caps’ strategy shifted to sell and retool ahead of the trade deadline.
El-Bashir wrote that Ovechkin “[was] not happy about the situation” but understood why MacLellan was initiating the selloff due to injuries to key players and where the team was in the standings.
MacLellan, taking questions from the press for the first time since early December, was asked about what was said in the private meeting.
“I always meet some of the older guys,” MacLellan said. “I met with Ovi just to tell him what I thought would happen down the stretch here just so he’s getting a heads up on the reasons why. Why it was going to happen and what we hope to accomplish through the trade deadline.”
MacLellan ultimately traded five pending unrestricted free agents from the team — Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Marcus Johansson, Erik Gustafsson, and Lars Eller — for picks and young defenseman Rasmus Sandin as the team continues to fade in the standings. The team opted not to trade any of its remaining UFAs like Conor Sheary or Trevor van Riemsdyk during the trade deadline on Friday.
“We like them,” MacLellan said. “They have a good role on our team. We fielded a couple offers. I think there was a trade-off between interest in bringing them back and what the return is. If something really made sense we would have pursued it but we’d rather have the guys on our team and a chance to bring them back going forward than what the return was that we were being offered for them.”
MacLellan believes that the draft capital the team did receive in trades will give the team the ability to acquire players over the summer and continue to retool.
As for the team’s struggles, MacLellan admitted it was both difficult professionally and personally to deal players the team’s had such great success with.
“It’s tough,” MacLellan said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve always gone for it. You’re always adding and looking for ways to improve your team or add on the fringes or try and make an impactful trade. It was unusual this year in that we went the other way. We have guys that we’ve been with for a long time. Good players, good people, and had success with them. To have to move on from them is difficult. It’s difficult for our players, it’s difficult for us.”
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