Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in March that the club would look to add “a top-six winger that has skill” over the offseason.
Now, with the 2023 NHL Draft completed, MacLellan appears to finally have something or somethings cooking.
While speaking to the press at Bridgestone Arena, MacLellan revealed that just because the team did not make a deal ahead of the draft, didn’t mean there weren’t gears turning behind the scenes.
“We’re still trying to make a change or changes in our top six or find a way to create something,” MacLellan said. “We’ll see if we can make it happen or not.”
MacLellan was then prompted by The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir to clarify if he means exclusively by trade.
“Trade, yes,” MacLellan answered quickly. “Yep.”
There was a long pause.
“Or free agency. We look at both opportunities. We’d like to make a change.”
A trade may be the only way the Capitals can improve their top six situation. This year’s unrestricted free agent crop isn’t exactly chock full of top-six forwards.
Only 10 UFA forwards scored 40 or more points last season. One of those is Patrick Kane who is going to be out for most of the year after having hip surgery. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci will either re-sign with Boston or likely retire.
Despite names like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kevin Hayes, Reilly Smith, Tyler Toffoli, and Ross Colton already moving to new teams, the trade market still has plenty of available top-six forward talent. That group is led by Ottawa Senators winger, Alex DeBrincat who is the most publicly available.
The 25-year-old DeBrincat, a former teammate of Dylan Strome’s both in junior and in the NHL, was a two-time, 40-goal scorer and also posted two 75-plus point seasons in Chicago. His first year in Ottawa wasn’t as successful as those years but he still managed to record 66 points (27g, 39a) while playing in all 82 regular season games.
DeBrincat and the Sens aren’t going to come to terms on an extension so Ottawa wants to move him this summer before they potentially lose him for nothing next summer. General manager Pierre Dorion admitted on Tuesday that the Sens are openly shopping DeBrincat.
Dorion says DeBrincat hasn't asked for a trade, but has refused to sign a long-term contract and the club has to look to move him. #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) June 27, 2023
Joining DeBrincat as potential trade candidates are Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Calgary’s Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund, Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton, Florida’s Anthony Duclair, Vancouver’s Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, and JT Miller, and Anaheim’s Adam Henrique.
Trades have been slow to develop due to many teams being cramped under the salary cap and the maximum limit rising only one million to $83.5M.
“There’s a lot of chatter, but I think there’s a lot of frustration, it seems like a lot of teams have players but no space or money, it’s not really hockey trades that are being discussed,” MacLellan said. “It’s how to create space, trades. It’s frustrating for managers in that way.”
The Capitals also have options in the minor leagues. With only 10 forwards under contract for next season on their NHL roster, prospects like Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas, Beck Malenstyn, Riley Sutter, and Hendrix Lapierre who just won a Calder Cup could all push for spots during Training Camp.
MacLellan also said that the Caps plan on circling back with soon-to-be free agent forward Connor Brown after Brown let them know he plans on testing the open market. Brown played just four games with the Caps last season before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the year.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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