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Winnik adds depth to Capitals

Expects to play on penalty kill after trade from Maple Leafs

by Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

Caps acquire Winnik for Laich

Capitals trade Laich to Maple Leafs for Winnik

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen breaks down the Washington Capitals acquisition of forward Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs

  • 01:32 •

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When Daniel Winnik received a call from an unfamiliar number Sunday night, he had a feeling it was Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Winnik was right. Lamoriello told him he'd been traded to the Washington Capitals. It was the second time in as many years the forward had been traded by Toronto.

"That was when the big shock came in," Winnik said. "I wasn't quite sure if I was going to get traded or where, and definitely wasn't expecting to come to the Capitals."

When Winnik was traded last year, he was warned it was going to happen. This time, he knew it was a possibility, but had no idea it if anything would come to pass.

The Capitals sent forward Brooks Laich, defenseman Connor Carrick and a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Leafs for Winnik.

Last year, the Maple Leafs traded Winnik, a pending unrestricted free agent, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Zach Sill, who signed with the Capitals in the offseason. Winnik took a chance and signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with Toronto on July 1.

Video: TOR@BOS: Winnik redirects Polak's shot past Rask

"This year, I knew signing back with the Leafs that there was a risk - I'd call it a risk - that I would get traded," Winnik said. "I thought it would happen in the second year of my contract, not the first year."

Winnik has yet to discuss his role with Capitals coach Barry Trotz but said he's comfortable playing on either wing, and has dabbled at center as well. Winnik is a penalty-kill specialist and could play on Washington's fourth line, filling the hole left by Laich's departure.

"He's a really good penalty killer, a pretty similar role to Brooks Laich," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said of Winnik. "A bigger player, a heavier player, a pretty good skater. I would say he's the equivalent of Brooks Laich, maybe a touch of an upgrade."

Though his offensive production has declined, Winnik, 30, relishes his utility role and recognizes its importance. He had 14 points in 56 games with the Maple Leafs this season.

"[Penalty killing] has kind of been my niche in this League and what's kept me around at times," Winnik said. "I think it's very rare for a team to be called elite or at the upper-echelon of the League without a good penalty kill."

Going from the last-place team in the NHL to the top team in the League is quite a leap, but Winnik said the trade has given him a new outlook.

"Well, it kind of revitalizes your play," he said. "It's nothing against what we've been in Toronto, but you know, you kind of try to play spoiler when you're out of the playoffs, like we have been in Toronto. Coming to a team that's in a pretty cushy playoff position, you always just want to keep playing better and winning more games so we finish first in the East and hopefully win the Presidents' Trophy as well."

Winnik expects to join the Capitals on Tuesday and could play as soon as Wednesday against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; SN, CSN-DC).

The Capitals did not make any moves on Monday, but that was not due to lack of trying, according to MacLellan.

"We pursued a few things today," he said. "We were trying to add some depth players. We were trying to get as good as we could at 13th, 14th forwards. It seemed to be a little quieter today than I expected it to be.

"There's a little bit of frustration, but still we're comfortable with where we're at as a team. I like where we are. We're well-balanced. I like our four lines, I like our eight D. So I'm comfortable going forward."

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