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2023 NHL Trade Deadline

MacLellan Breaks Down Capitals’ Trade Decisions, Sell-Off Approach

Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan discusses the team’s approach to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline and breaks down his decisions and moves.



Going into Friday, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan found himself in a strange position entering the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline: working the phones to sell off a number of pending free agents and start to plan for the future.

It was a difficult spot for him and the organization to be in, as it consisted of several tough goodbyes and seeing things from the perspective of a non-contender for the first time since 2014.

"We had to make some tough decisions, you know, probably a little sooner than we would have liked to have made them, but we had to make them when we made them," MacLellan said. "We had some good guys, some good players that we didn't really want to part with, but we ended up parting with because I don't know that we were showing the consistency that we needed to show to become a team that was going to go for it. So, I think we had to straddle a line of what's best for the future, what's best for our team in the future and try and still add players and stay competitive."

By 3 p.m. on Friday, Washington had acquired Craig Smith and Rasmus Sandin and traded away pending free agents Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson and Erik Gustafsson. Beyond trades, the team chose to extend free agents Nick Jensen and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and now, Smith, Conor Sheary, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Matt Irwin are the only remaining UFAs on the roster.

2023 NHL TRADE DEADLINE: Full Breakdown Of All The Washington Capitals Moves

MacLellan had also met with captain Alex Ovechkin to explain the approach to the deadline, and said that for the organization, selling amid struggles was a tough pill to swallow.

"It's tough, it's hard. Since I've been here, we've always gone for it. You're always adding, looking for ways to improve your team or add on the fringes or try and make an impactful trade," MacLellan said. "It was unusual this year in that we went the other way. We had guys that we've been with for a long time that have been good players, good people, we've had success with them. To have to move on from them is difficult. It's difficult for our players, it's difficult for us."

Going forward, MacLellan and Washington plan to see where things go in the final 19 games of the season. There is a plan to continue to build and grow in the offseason, where the team believes it will have more flexibility. MacLellan sees this as more of a retool than a rebuild, and added that having draft picks to work with and getting discussions started sets the team up for success in the summer.

"We have some draft capital that we can use going forward. We've acquired some picks, and I think next year's first-round pick is going to be a good pick," MacLellan noted. "We should get a good player there, and then moving forward into the offseason and into the draft, we have a lot more flexibility to trade for players."

READ MORE ON WHN: Rasmus Sandin Opens Up About Trade To Washington Capitals, Wants To Earn Big Role

Despite the sell-off, the Capitals aren't throwing in the towel or calling it quits, as MacLellan still believes that the team has a lot to show down the stretch. Washington sits just four points out of playoff position and continues to deal with injuries.

"Yeah, I think we want to be competitive next year. I still think we want to be competitive this year. I still think we got a pretty good team, you know, we're going through some injuries. Our backend is decimated a little bit. You know, we tried to add a good, young defenseman in Sandin. So we'll see where we are when we come out of it here."

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