Handcuffed by the salary cap, it will be tough for the Washington Capitals to make any major roster moves.
Still, Brian MacLellan is confident that the team doesn’t need free agency to inject new life into the team’s aging roster.
“I think they all had a good playoff, they’re all getting better,” MacLellan, the Capitals’ general manager, said. “All of them add different elements to our lineup. I would more than likely pencil them in for next year.”
Protas, having played in 91 games with the Capitals over the past two seasons, has the most NHL experience of the three. His on-ice impact has been minimal with the Capitals, but he’s fresh off a playoff run with the AHL’s Hershey Bears where he tallied the team’s third-best scoring output: 13 points on five goals and eight assists.
McMichael is in a similar spot, having played in 75 NHL games — including 68 during the 2021-22 season — albeit mostly away from his natural center position. He spent most of the past season with the Bears, recording 39 regular-season points before tallying 10 in 20 playoff games.
Malenstyn, a natural left winger, missed time last season with a broken finger, but was still able to put up 10 points — six goals, four assists — in 40 games. His eight playoff points were ninth-best on the team.
Both Protas and Malenstyn ended the regular season in Washington before joining the Bears’ playoff run.
“To see them do well at that level of play in the Finals and then winning the championship,” MacLellan says, “I think that just solidifies their development.”
The team has four spots to fill on the NHL roster, with the three expected to slot into the bottom six — at least for now.
With the return of centers Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dylan Strome, Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd, McMichael appears likely to be resigned to the wing once again, barring any additional moves. He’s likely to face a battle for ice time with Protas and Malenstyn, who both played on the wing in the NHL by the end of last season.