edmundson MV

Coming out of Sunday’s preseason opener against the Buffalo Sabres, the Caps had some concern with the health of defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. Midway through the third period of that game, van Riemsdyk blocked a shot with what appeared to be his right hand or forearm area, and he left the game at that point and did not return.

Following an off day on Monday, the Capitals were relieved to learn that van Riemsdyk was fit enough to be a full participant in Tuesday’s on ice training camp sessions.

“Maybe a little worry at first, but all good,” says van Riemsdyk of his close call in the game against Buffalo. “I was obviously out here practicing today, so it’s nothing too bad. Just being overly cautious probably for a preseason game.”

But there was a defenseman missing from Tuesday’s proceedings, and he did get injured on Sunday, but not in the preseason tilt against the Sabres.

Blueliner Joel Edmundson didn’t play in Sunday’s preseason opener, but he did sustain an upper body injury in Washington’s Sunday scrimmage for players who did not suit up against the Sabres. Edmundson was not on the ice on Tuesday, and from the sound of it, is not likely to be on the ice for a while.

“He is going to see our doctors today,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery. “And then we’ll know more [Wednesday]. Probably not good, but we’ll know more tomorrow.”

Washington added Edmundson to its roster via a July 1 trade with the Canadiens. The 6-foot-5, 221-pound defenseman was brought in because the team felt the need for a physical defender who would make opposing forwards think twice before setting up camp at the top of the Caps’ crease. At the outset of training camp last week, Edmundson was slotted on the left side of a pairing with van Riemsdyk, a former teammate of his in Carolina.

“I know Eddie, and obviously we were together in Carolina,” says van Riemsdyk. “He’s an awesome guy. On the ice, he’s obviously a great player, a good guy to play with. He plays hard and makes the other team earn every inch they get. But away from the rink, he’s a good guy too, and a good guy to have in the locker room. We seem to have a lot of those in Washington, which I think is part of the winning culture, and he’s been a part of that [elsewhere], too. It’s good to have him here, and hopefully he’s back soon.”

With Edmundson out of the picture – for the short term at least – there now exists an opportunity for one of Washington’s younger defensemen to step into the breach during the veteran’s absence. Among the candidates to step in are former first-rounders Lucas Johansen (2016) and Alex Alexeyev (2018), as well as offseason free agent addition Hardy Haman Aktell, who will be playing in North America for the first time this season. And because of the right-handed van Riemsdyk’s ability to play on the left side, sophomore pro Vincent Iorio – the Caps’ second round pick (55th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft – could also take a run at the temporary opening created by Edmundson’s absence.

“If Joel misses any significant amount of time,” says Carbery, “it turns that camp battle into now maybe a few more players involved in that, and maybe more opportunity to grab. For Alexeyev, for Lucas Johansen, for Haman Aktell, it’s a potential opportunity there.

“Being able to flip someone to the left side like [van Riemsdyk], is something that we would for sure consider. And Iorio has played some games [in the NHL], and I thought he was solid [on Sunday vs. Buffalo] from going back through the film. So he is in that mix, too.”

Carbery is keenly aware of what Washington will be missing for however long Edmundson is sidelined. As a member of the Montreal Canadiens team that made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, Edmundson made a big impression on Carbery when the Habs started their run with a first round upset of Carbery’s former employer, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“When I think of Joel Edmundson, I think of that series,” says Carbery. “Joel played with Ben Chiarot. They were like a shutdown pair, and man, did they make life difficult on Toronto’s best players, for seven straight games. And it was mean, hard, and physical.”

That’s what the Caps will be missing in Edmundson’s absence. None of the four possible replacements for him possesses the size, the physicality and the mean streak that Edmundson brings on a nightly basis. The Caps are hoping for the best possible news on the veteran defender, but they’ve got some viable short-term options in the meantime.

“It’s what these guys want, right?” says Carbery. “They want to prove that they’re an everyday NHL player on a good team. So it’s right there; I love that. Not for Joel’s case, but for guys that are just waiting for that one break to be able to get into the lineup, and sometimes it comes in another person’s misfortune.”