Sheary Opens Up About Trade Deadline Anxiety, Capitals Future: ‘Longest 12 Hours Of My Life’
Washington Capitals forward Conor Sheary opened up about his anxiety going into the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline and his future with the organization as he heads for free agency.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — On the morning of trade deadline day, Conor Sheary woke up in San Jose, California feeling anxiety and nerves building. It'd already been a hectic week leading up to March 3, as he not only welcomed his second child, a boy named Callum earlier in the week but also saw his name move higher up multiple NHL trade boards as he and the team continued a tough playoff push. Now, he had a possible change of scenery to worry about.
Sheary was no stranger to the murmurs that he'd be part of the Washington Capitals sell-off, which had seen fellow pending free agents Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Marcus Johansson, Erik Gustafsson and Lars Eller shipped out in exchange for draft capital and the likes of Rasmus Sandin and Craig Smith. So as he made his way to the Sharks practice rink, put on his gear and hit the ice, he was playing a waiting game, keeping his phone close while looking at the clock and counting down the minutes to noon, when all trades would cease on the West Coast.
"That trade deadline day, it felt like the longest 12 hours of my life just waiting for a call," Sheary revealed. "I saw my name out there a few times."
But Sheary didn't hear anything. Not when he took the ice at 11:15 a.m. PT. Not during practice, where his thoughts were racing amid the speculation. And not after practice, where he got word that general manager Brian MacLellan was done making moves. After making sure that he had no missed calls, no texts or no meetings, he exhaled, letting out a sigh of relief. He'd stay put for the remainder of the stretch, meaning he wouldn't have to leave his newborn son and family behind to close out the campaign with another team.
"I'm really happy to still be here," he said. "Hopefully that means they like having me around. I was fortunate to not be on the move and still be with this group."
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MacLellan had gotten some offers for Sheary's services. After all, the 30-year-old has proven to be a versatile forward who can play top-6 and bottom-6 minutes, fit in multiple roles and kill penalties, all while helping contribute offensively. Though his production has dropped off a bit as the team has struggled since the start of 2023, he has posted back-to-back 30-point seasons and ended up one goal away from 20 last season.
For MacLellan, though, there was more value in holding onto Sheary and having him contribute and potentially remain on board than the return that was being offered.
"I think there was a trade-off between we liked the players we have some interest in bringing them back and what the return is," MacLellan explained, adding there were also offers for Trevor van Riemsdyk. "So if something really made sense, we would've pursued it, but we'd rather have the guys on our team and the chance to bring them back going forward than what we were being offered [in return]."
For Sheary, finishing out the season with the team was the best-case scenario. He has fit in well with head coach Peter Laviolette's systems and has found a home with the Capitals while raising his family in D.C. as well. Since he signed a last-minute deal with the team after little interest from other clubs in 2020 free agency, Sheary has taken his game to a whole new level.
Going forward, No. 73 has expressed interest in re-signing and staying with the organization, but added that there hasn't been much progress on a deal yet. Still, he's holding out hope that he'll be back in red next season and continue the journey in the District.
"I would love to [stay]. I wouldn't say it's probable, it's not something that's manifested yet, but if they were to come to me, I think it would be something I would definitely, definitely be interested in," he said.