TORONTO — The Washington Capitals’ afternoon became rather intriguing with a flurry of transaction-related news that ultimately concluded with forward Devante Smith-Pelly being placed on waivers. With the trade deadline on Monday, the move is believed to be the precursor to another one.
The team initially planned to place forward Dmitrij Jaskin on waivers at noon, which was why he wasn’t on the ice for the team’s practice in Toronto at 11 a.m. Smith-Pelly was on the ice for the start of practice, but he then left early, apparently told that the organization had changed its mind and decided to waive him and not Jaskin.
“Right now, there is a lot of movement going on, especially for teams that are salary-cap strapped like we are,” coach Todd Reirden said. “Earlier in the day, we had made the decision to put Jaskin on waivers, and we changed our mind and were notified during practice. We made that adjustment, and now Devante has been put on waivers.”
Why the change of heart?
“That is a little bit of what is going on behind the scenes here, and that is something that we’ll keep obviously between ourselves at this point, especially with the amount of stuff that’s going on in the league right now,” Reirden said.
It’s possible that once word got out that Washington planned to waive Jaskin, general manager Brian MacLellan got a more enticing offer for him from another team.
Smith-Pelly has four goals and four assists in 54 games this season, playing on a $1 million, one-year contract signed this past offseason. A season ago, Smith-Pelly produced 16 points, including seven goals, across 75 regular season games. He equaled that seven-goal output in the playoffs, tallying the game-tying goal in the Stanley Cup-clinching Game 5 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Teams will have until noon tomorrow to claim Smith-Pelly. Should he clear waivers, the Capitals can assign him to their minor-league affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
“It’s always tough to tell a player that, and that’s part of the business, especially for someone that’s in a situation like we are, pushed to the cap and trying to make our team better,” Reirden said. “Obviously, he was a big part of our team’s success last year.”
Smith-Pelly has a $1 million cap hit, so clearing that off the roster will give Washington a little more room to maneuver if the team wants to acquire someone by Monday. With Smith-Pelly on the roster, the Capitals had the maximum of 23 players and less than $237,000 in salary cap space to work with, according to CapFriendly.com. MacLellan said earlier this month that he’s looking to swap one forward for another, and he’s believed to be looking for someone who could play in Washington’s middle six, meaning on the second or third line.
Asked if there could be more moves coming, Reirden said, “There is lots going on right now. Like I said, we’re always trying to improve our team and the direction we’re going and get better. There are lots of moving parts right now in a number of different spots.”