‘I would say we’re not as aggressive as we normally are, it would have to make sense’: Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addresses the media ahead of the trade deadline

On Wednesday, Washington Capitals general manager and senior vice president Brian MacLellan spoke to the media ahead of the NHL trade deadline, which is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. He discussed a wide variety of topics, including the team’s plans for the deadline, the team’s support for Alex Ovechkin, and more.

During Tuesday’s practice, forward Carl Hagelin suffered what Samantha Pell of The Washington Post called a “serious eye injury” for which Hagelin underwent surgery. Hagelin is a key player on the team’s fourth line.

“It’s a serious eye injury, I don’t know if we know the full extent of it yet. He had a meeting here this afternoon with various ophthalmologists. It remains to be determined what the next steps are for him. The vision part is the biggest concern. We were really worried last night, I don’t know of any positive news, the review has gone in the right direction, but it remains to be seen what the next steps are and what effect it will will have on him. We will find the best solution to put online. I will get along with [Capitals Head Coach Peter Laviolette] Peter here the next day and we’ll decide if we want to call someone or use a player we have, obviously he’s a big part of our PK, he’s one of the best PKers in the league.

Top-six forward Anthony Mantha missed most of the regular season after undergoing shoulder surgery in November, and was not ruled out for tomorrow’s game by Laviolette. The 27-year-old was acquired last season from the Detroit Red Wings.

“I think the doctor and Jason Serbus had a meeting this afternoon to figure out if he’s going tomorrow or if we need a few more days. [Regarding moving someone off to make cap space] We have injury situations here that need to be resolved in order to create space.”

“It’s frustrating, disappointing. I think the first part of the year [I] really liked what we were doing. I liked our defence, I liked the goalie, I liked everything about our game…I don’t know how we got out of sync. Team play kind of got out of sync with guys coming in and out of the lineup…and then we kind of lost our rhythm, lost our way. I think there are a number of different things that happened… the power play hurt us for a long time here. It took a lot of momentum away from us – we didn’t win any games. Recent trends though, I think have been positive. We’re scoring goals, chance rates are up, I think the coaches have been emphasizing different things about faster pace, more presence in the net… so I think that helped a lot. Still concerned about shorthanded goals, shorthanded opportunities in particular”.

The 2022 NHL trade deadline is March 21 this season. MacLellan has been active in recent playoffs, adding depth and key elements to bolster the team’s chances of a long playoff run.

“I mean we have two inexperienced goalkeepers. Both showed a glimpse of what they can do. Unfortunately I think we had Vanecek in a very good position and then he got injured and probably missed too much time. So I guess we have to see where he is. I think overall the percentage savings was probably average 5 to 5, 5 to 4 a bit below average. The concern for me is sometimes the goals, the timing of the goals, the goals of the game situation, which some veterans would tighten up and make the save. It’s not the overall savings percentage, it’s when and how the goals happen, I think that’s another thing that can zap the momentum of your time. We’ll make calls and see if anything makes sense, but overall we have two very good goalies who are still working their way through the league.”

While the Capitals reportedly inquired about veteran guarding earlier this season, the team has kept their in-house options so far.

“I mean the predicament, I think, is that it has to be an obvious upgrade for us to make sense, otherwise we would go with our guys. I don’t know if there are so many guys who have this quality. I would say my mindset is that we’re not as aggressive as we normally are, that would have to make sense… I’d be less inclined to trade prospects because they’re going to play here sooner rather than later”.

“I am [happy with the team’s defensemen]. I think we have good depth this year. from Irwin [Matt Irwin] does a good job, [Michal] Kempny has done a great job, we have two young guys, [Lucas] Johansen and [Alex] Alexeyev to Hershey, we can call”.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine had a widespread effect around the world, including the NHL and other hockey leagues. Russian players such as Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (for his past support of Russian President Vladimir Putin) have faced backlash and other repercussions due to the situation; therefore, the NHL has worked with league teams to increase the safety of these players.

“He’s a good person, he’s an emotional person. He takes things personally. I think he’s been under incredible pressure. For us, that’s how do we support him. He’s been the face of our franchise, the face of hockey in this area, his family grew up here, his kids are from here Due to his status, it’s a difficult situation that I’m not sure he fully thought about, that anyone really has. So it’s hard for him, we talk to him, he faces pressure from all sides, from North America, from Russia, from family, from a lot of different people and he’s trying to work it out. So we’re trying to support him, we have people talking to him all the time, we’re helping him get through what he needs to get through. I think it’s hard for all the Russian players in the league, I think there’s a lot of pressure for them to have a political opinion back and forth, and they try to balance the how they live their lives and their political views are and the repercussions among us.

In response to Ukraine’s invasion, the NHL severed business relationships with Russian partners to support Ukraine and equipment maker CCM announced it would not market its products using Russian players, including Ovechkin .

“I think some of the sources of information are also different for Russian players, so they have to balance a lot of different things. I just think it’s hard for them to understand where they stand in both situations, what ‘they can say, what they can’t say and what their true feelings are. We have security, I think some of the things that are happening on social media are scary for players on both sides, for them and their families”.

One of the Capitals’ current Russian players is goaltender and 2015 first-round pick Ilya Samsonov, who struggled to find consistency in his second season in the league.

“We have two guys who had NHL starts at under 60, they are inexperienced. I don’t know what starting level in the NHL you get until you know “that’s what he is”, sometimes goaltenders take longer. He has the skill and the size to be a number one goalkeeper, they are both good young goalkeepers.

The Capitals have had a number of young players in the NHL roster this season, including Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas and Brett Leason.

“Really well, I think they are all progressing well. Protas was good, Leason was good. I think it’s important for them in the American League to play more minutes. I think they had a good overview of the NHL and what it represents in the NHL, but I think it’s the perfect time for them to be in the American League. I would have drawn McMichael in the American League at the start of the year, but due to injuries he got off to a great start, probably stalled a bit, but did a great job for a young player. His skating has improved, his pace of play has improved, but what matters to me is his physical maturity, he will improve as he gets older. I think here, because of his age, it would be much more difficult for him to play in the center but I think he could definitely do it.”

The Capitals are next in action on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, a game that will air exclusively on ESPN Plus.