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Capitals 'most complete team' of Alex Ovechkin era

Washington GM says it's at 'highest level we've ever played at'

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- There have been many successful Washington Capitals teams during captain Alex Ovechkin's 12 seasons in the NHL, but their general manager said Thursday he believes this version is the best one he has seen.

"You could make an argument, but to me it is the most complete team," Brian MacLellan said Thursday. "I think everybody feels that way. These past three years, we've continually built a culture, a structure, the coaches have evolved systems-wise. We've added guys every year that have worked out. Things have kind of evolved to a good way where I think we should be playing at our highest level we've ever played at."

The Capitals have not advanced to the Eastern Conference Final with Ovechkin. They are in the running for a second consecutive Presidents' Trophy, leading the NHL with 87 points at 40-12-7.

"We've tried to create a sense of urgency here, even starting last year, that this is it here," MacLellan said. "You have two years to figure it out, this group. That doesn't mean that going forward we're not going to be good, but something's got to give because of the roster we have. Something's got to fall out, and I'm not sure what it's going to be, but it's not going to be the same."

Video: WSH@NYR: Ovechkin nets PPG from left circle

With the NHL Trade Deadline looming (3 p.m. ET, March 1), MacLellan isn't under pressure to plug significant holes in the lineup as he has been in seasons past. The Capitals did their work over the summer, trading for center Lars Eller at the 2016 NHL Draft and signing forward Brett Connolly on July 1.

If the Capitals do decide to add, it likely will be for insurance in the event of injuries down the stretch and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. MacLellan recognizes the risk of tinkering with an established lineup but has feelers out for something that might work.

"We're exploring opportunities," he said. "We go through the same process as we've always gone through, but if something makes sense, we're going to pursue it. We're not going to mess with lines or defense pairs. If we could upgrade on the fringes, we might do it.

"I have to do my job. I have to pursue anything that I think can be a possibility that might make us better, and when we get down into the nitty gritty, you say yes or no. And it's going to be based on what effects it's going to have on our team."

MacLellan has had discussions with Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom for input on what they think the Capitals are missing or what they need.

Video: WSH@PHI: Backstrom roofs wrister to open the scoring

"They're usually thinking a little differently because of their personalities," MacLellan said. "Ovi's like, 'Just get someone.' Nick's 'Wait, wait, wait, wait, don't.' It's kind of a fun dynamic. Our team, they're the key guys. Those two and [goalie Braden] Holtby. We're trying to do everything around them. Make their lives easier so they can compete hard."

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