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Brian MacLellan Speaks Ahead of the 2019 Draft

The Caps General Manager spoke to the media through teleconference on Thursday

by Washington Capitals @capitals /

The Washington Capitals hold five picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, which begins on Friday, June 21 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan participated in a media teleconference on Thursday ahead of the draft to discuss a number of topics.

(On talk between general managers)

"I've seen that quote. To me, it's been a normal amount of chatter. I think a lot of teams are checking and checking in on players and trying to figure out where the cap is going to be and what they have to do to be compliant with that. I think there's quite a few bigger-name RFAs out there that people are trying to work towards a contract with. So, I don't know if it's above normal. I think it's pretty normal from my point of view."

"We try to have as many conversations as we can to know what's going on with teams and what they're trying to do and trying to find a match with what we're trying to accomplish."

(On appearing to be in "win-now" mode)

"I don't know that we're never not in an all-in situation. We view ourselves as a contender for the Cup and we want to put the best team forward and make the best decisions we can to do that. We have some good players, some players that are getting a little bit older, but are still high-end quality players and we're looking to surround them with the best team possible."

"I think we're in the same mode we've been in for the last five years. Try to have the best team we can put on the ice together. I think Ovi and Backy are still high-end quality players and we're trying to surround them with the best guys we can every year."

(On Andre Burakovsky's contract status affecting contract negotiations with Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby)

"I don't know if that has a huge impact on it. We have another year with both players. Obviously, they're both a big part of the team and a big part of what we've accomplished so far. As the summer goes on, we'll talk to both of those guys about the future and how we see it playing out. Do I think Andre Burakovsky plays into the decision for those two contracts? I don't think so."

(On Andre Burakovsky)

"Andre had a frustrating year this year, but I think he finished it up well. I think from the trade deadline on… I thought he had a good playoffs. We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game he's a good player. We'd like to keep him around. Obviously, his name is out there a bit, so we do talk to some teams on him. We're not going to move him unless we get something we feel comfortable with back."

(On uncertainty of salary cap ceiling)

"It's frustrating. We've been projecting using that [$83 million] number for the last part of the year. At some point we switched back to [$82.5 million] because there were some rumblings there and now it seems to be going back a little further. I know it seems like it's not a large amount of dollars, but it does impact teams that are right at the number, as far as salary. So, it is a bit frustrating. When you see it go down to maybe [$81.5 million] I think there's a pause on our part. We want to see the number before we move forward because it's going to affect our roster decisions, even on the bottom end. On fourth line and what we have to do going forward because the margins are that slim for us."

"Well hopefully we find out what the number is, supposedly on Saturday. The free agent market interview period, we'll have a week or four or five days to talk to agents, talk to players and see what their salary expectations are. So, it might affect whether we go after certain players or not certain players. Just the difference in that $1 million."

(On contract negotiations with Jakub Vrana)

"We're in contact with his agent. We've had a few conversations with him. We're continuing to talk to him as we go forward. We're going to play it out here. We're going to see where the cap is and see what our roster decisions are and make a decision with Jakub and his agent."

(On recently acquired defenseman Radko Gudas)

"We like Radko. He's a competitive guy. We feel he's a good defensive defenseman. We liked him on the penalty kill, he brings a physical element to our team that we feel we need. He's a high-character guy, a good guy in the room, so we're excited to have him on our team."

"We'll play it out here. I mean he's a candidate for it, he could play there. We could try a number of guys there. I think we'll just see how this goes and as we approach camp the coaches will try a number of options and he's one of them"

(On Brett Connolly)

"I think we brought stability to his game. Obviously, he played well. I think we found a good spot on the third line for him. Lars has been a good match for him, Burakovsky has been a good match for him. They complement each other really well. I think he just found stability. He found a place where he could play. There wasn't a lot of pressure on him to score because he had guys in front of him. I think it was just a good fit team wise and for him, and he took advantage of it. He played well."

(On potential difficulty of re-signing Connolly with salary cap ceiling uncertain)

"It could be. We're in conversations with his agent also. I think it depends on how the league views him and what kind of contract offers and what kind of role he's going to be presented with. I think he's earned the right to listen to all the teams and to see where they fit with opportunity and financially. We're going to talk to him and see where that ends up for him and try to make a decision based on that."

(On the status of pending UFAs Devante Smith-Pelly and Brooks Orpik)

"We've talked to both their agents also. We're going to wait until the interview period here and continue to converse with them going forward. See where our other opportunities are and try to make a good decision based on that."

(On qualifying the team's RFAs)

"We're going to make a decision here after we see the cap number. After we talk to a couple of these agents further after that cap number."

(On whether a lower than expected salary cap ceiling affects Andre Burakovsky's contract status)


(On Alex Ovechkin winning his eighth career Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy)

"He continues to amaze me that he keeps playing at that high of a level. I think last year was outstanding for him. It's great for him. I'm happy for him, his family. It's great for the organization. I expect him to fully compete at that level next year and going forward. He shows no signs of slowing down."

(On the health of T.J. Oshie)

"I think he'll be ready for the start of training camp. Last I heard he was healthy and working out at our practice rink and doing well. He'll be ready for training camp, for sure."

(On the health of Alexander Alexeyev)

"He's healthy. I don't think it was as bad as initially expected. He'll be at development camp here and fully healthy."

(On deciding between drafting a forward or defenseman)

"I think it will factor into our decisions. Unless we see a defenseman that's clearly above a forward that we like. If the decision is close I think we're going to go with the forward."

(On the defensemen available in the draft)

"There seems to be a section in that draft right after those forwards where there's quite a few good defensemen that the scouts really like. Overall, I think it's a pretty deep draft, a lot of guys are going to play. There are quite a few defensemen in the middle-to-late first round that guys like. There's also a group of forwards that our guys like a lot. We're going to balance that decision between the two."

(On the health of Michal Kempny)

"It's wait and see but we're expecting him to be available for camp. He's progressing well. I haven't gotten an update over the last week or so, but before that he was on target to play in training camp."

(On Evgeny Kuznetsov)

"We're a little disappointed that he had put himself in that situation, that could be interpreted in a number of different ways. I think we had a pretty thorough investigation by both the league and the club and a number of discussions with Kuzy about what happened and how he got in that spot and how to handle that going forward. At the end of the day, we're comfortable on all the conversations we've had, we're comfortable with what the league had to say about it. I think Kuzy learned a lesson about putting himself in certain situations. And we're going to move forward, and we expect Kuzy to have a good year this year.

(On re-signing Carl Hagelin)

"I liked the fit. I like his experience. I like what he brings to our team on the penalty kill. I like that he has speed. I liked pretty much everything about it. I think we needed a first PK guy. Our PK improved when he got there. He's a player that drives the play five-on-five. So, those were all factors that went into it. He fits real well with his teammates here. I think with us having to trade Niskanen, Orpik might not come back, I think we needed the leadership that he brings to the table. I mean he's won a couple Cups, he knows what it takes. There's a lot of positives and again, the fit was perfect for us. So, we thought it was a priority that we would sign him."


Click here for the full audio of the Brian MacLellan teleconference.

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