ANNAPOLIS -- Looking down at the early stages of the rink build for the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan couldn't help getting excited Tuesday about the outdoor game here against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 3 (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS, NHL.TV).
"Everybody's kind of looking forward to it, but you get caught up in the schedule and travel" MacLellan said. "Now it's getting closer, so it's becoming more of a reality."
The arrival of the 53-foot 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series Ice Plant truck made it feel that much more real, but much of MacLellan's focus is elsewhere with the NHL Trade Deadline approaching (3 p.m. ET; Feb. 26). MacLellan completed one trade Monday, acquiring defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
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MacLellan laughed when asked about Capitals coach Barry Trotz's suggestion Monday that he might have more coming before the trade deadline.
"We're looking at all things," MacLellan said. "We're in communication with other teams and players and if something makes sense for us, we're going to do it."
With less than six days to go until the deadline, MacLellan said it's been more of a sellers' trade market so far.
"There's limited sellers and they're the ones doing most of the talking and it feels like the bigger names will go here at the end and some good players will change teams at the end," he said.
Unlike last season, when the Capitals acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues the day before the deadline, MacLellan doesn't expect to be involved in the deals for the bigger names. The cost for Shattenkirk (and American Hockey League goaltender Pheonix Copley) was forward prospect Zach Sanford, forward Brad Malone, a first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and conditional draft picks.
Although the Capitals (34-18-7) are in first place in the Metropolitan Division heading into their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Capital One Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SNP, TVAS, NBCSWA, SUN, NHL.TV), MacLellan doesn't believe they can afford to give up pieces of their future for another rental trade such as the one for Shattenkirk.
"We would not be giving up that type of asset quality this year," he said. "We're not looking to do that. We don't have the cap space to do that, and you can't keep doing that year after year. You get one shot at it and then you have to wait before you can do that again."
MacLellan said if he makes another trade before the deadline, it will likely be a depth deal similar to the one for Kempny, who is expected to make his Capitals debut at the Florida Panthers on Thursday. MacLellan hopes Kempny, 27, can help the Capitals clean up their defensive zone exits with his skating and puck-moving skill.
"I like our forward group," MacLellan said. "Our defense has to sort itself out."
After the trade deadline, the Capitals will have 20 games remaining to strengthen their positioning for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and get ready for the postseason. One of those games will be under the lights against the Maple Leafs.
It will be the 25th regular-season outdoor game in NHL history and the third each for the Capitals and the Maple Leafs, who faced each other in the Eastern Conference First Round last season with the Capitals winning the best-of-7 series in six games.
The Capitals defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park in Washington and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in front of a record crowd of 105,491 at Michigan Stadium and won 5-4 in overtime against the Red Wings in the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium's capacity of 34,000 is smaller than most of the previous venues that have hosted an outdoor game, but United States Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Walter E. "Ted" Carter said the NHL Stadium Series game will be the largest professional sports event in the venue's 58-year history.
"To bring this program here with the technological marvel of creating two inches of ice that's going to be built on a spectacular platform out there -- I'm not going to disclose what that's going to look like, but I think you're going to be blown away," Carter said. "It's going to be an exciting event on March 3. We can't wait to get it on."