Capitals additions

ARLINGTON, Va. -- While the Washington Capitals were busy retooling their roster during the past two weeks, general manager Brian MacLellan didn’t have a chance to speak with Alex Ovechkin. But he did receive a simple, wordless text from the Capitals captain.

“Just the thumbs-up emoji,” MacLellan said Wednesday.

Although MacLellan couldn’t remember for certain, he thinks Ovechkin’s seal of approval followed the Capitals’ trade to acquire center Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Darcy Kuemper on June 19. That was the first of a series of moves Washington made in which they added seven players.

Forward Andrew Mangiapane was the next acquisition in a trade with the Calgary Flames on Thursday for a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft, followed by goalie Logan Thompson, who was acquired in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday for third-round picks in the 2024 and 2025 drafts.

Just before the NHL unrestricted free agent market opened at noon ET Monday, the Capitals announced they’d acquired defenseman Jakob Chychrun from the Ottawa Senators in a trade for defenseman Nick Jensen and a third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft. Then, they signed defenseman Matt Roy to a six-year, $34.5 million contract ($5.75 million).

Washington also supplemented its forward depth by signing Brandon Duhaime to a two-year, $3.7 million contract ($1.85 million AAV) and Taylor Raddysh to a one-year, $1 million contract. Duhaime and Raddysh will likely play on the fourth line.

Although Ovechkin might be more interested in the additions of Dubois and Mangiapane, who are expected to play on Washington’s top two lines, Chychrun and Roy could prove to be just as important.

“Just the elements they provide,” MacLellan said. “The Chychrun thing, the offense, the shot, the ability to jump in the play, and then Roy is stabilizing. And I think he has a little more offense too in his game, where he can jump into plays. He’s a good skater. So, I think the group skillset now seems to fit better now than it did before.”

MacLellan was as intent on reshaping Washington’s defense as he was on adding speed and skill to its forward lines. The Capitals were 31st in the NHL with just 20 goals from defensemen last season, ahead of only the Chicago Blackhawks (19), and 30th in the League with 134 points from defensemen, ahead of the San Jose Sharks (114) and Blackhawks (104).

John Carlson accounted for team-high 10 of those goals and 52 points. No other Capitals defenseman had more than three goals or 23 points.

MacLellan attributed that to, “partly a function of the way we play,” but Chychrun should help in that area. The 26-year-old equaled his NHL career high with 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games with the Senators last season and added seven power-play goals.

And though Roy is known more as a lock-down defenseman, as MacLellan noted, he has some offensive abilities. He had 25 points (five goals, NHL career-high 20 assists) in 81 games with the Kings last season.

“I think more importantly, we want to spend more time in the offensive zone, and I think these guys are going to help that,” MacLellan said.

MacLellan acknowledged that he’d been trying to acquire Chychrun, who has one season left on his contract, since before he was traded to Ottawa on March 1, 2023. His skating and puck-moving abilities should help Washington break out of its defensive zone cleaner and quicker.

In addition to being 28th in the NHL with 2.63 goals per game last season and tying with the Colorado Avalanche for 16th in giving up 3.07 goals per game, Washington was 30th in the League in averaging 26.5 shots on goal per game and tied the Boston Bruins for 21st in allowing 30.5 shots per game. The Capitals were minus-495 in 5-on-5 shot attempts, which ranked 26th in the NHL.

Spending more time in the offensive zone would help in all those areas.

The main objective this offseason was to improve the lineup around Ovechkin, who is second in NHL history with 853 goals, 42 away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.

Heading toward his 20th season in the NHL and his 39th birthday on Sept. 17, the left wing isn’t the player once was, but still led the Capitals (40-31-11) with 31 goals last season, including 23 in his final 36 regular-season games to help them qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

Ovechkin didn’t have a point when Washington was swept by the New York Rangers in the first round, however, and MacLellan suggested afterward that he might have run out of gas from needing to carry the offense in the final months of the regular season. The hope is that he won’t need to do that again this season.

“I think we realized where we were at last year,” MacLellan said. “We knew we had to get better. We had to add. For Ovi, too. There was a lot of pressure on Ovi to produce last year because we lacked the depth in that area. So hopefully, he's supported here more with a better overall team this year.”

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