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Blue Line Changes: Capitals Waive Kempny, Keep Irwin & TVR

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Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

The Washington Capitals are set to open the season on Wednesday, and they’re starting to make their final decisions. A big one dropped on Saturday, as the team waived defenseman Michal Kempny.

If Kempny clears waivers, he will be heading down to the AHL’s Hershey Bears. This move will leave seven defensemen on the Capitals roster: Justin Schultz, John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Martin Fehervary, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Nick Jensen and Matt Irwin.

The 31-year-old blueliner is still working toward getting back into NHL shape following two major surgeries and three injuries in his left leg.

In March 2019, he tore his hamstring and missed significant time before returning in 2019-20. Then, in the 2020 offseason, he suffered a torn Achilles while training for the season. He was working toward a return for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and conditioning in Hershey in the spring, but collided with an ice shoveler and suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

Prior to preseason action, the last game Kempny had played in for Washington was in the playoff bubble in 2020.

“We got to give him some games… it’s been a long grind for him, two major surgeries,” head coach Peter Laviolette said earlier in the preseason. “We got to give him some time to plan to work things out.”

Kempny looked decent in camp and has been getting back into the rhythm of skating. However, getting back into game action hasn’t been too easy for the Czech blueliner. He got time on the blue line with Vinnie Iorio and Schultz down the stretch and said he was progressing.

READ MORE ON WHN: Kempny Reflects On Adversity, Road To Recovery With Capitals

Turnovers, reads and gap control have been an issue, but it is something that he’s getting better at with more reps.

This move to Hershey can benefit him greatly, especially as it allows him to get more ice time before returning full-time to NHL action.

“I just need to do the reps and be in those situations in a game because it’s different in a practice, let’s be honest here,” Kempny said in regards to adapting to the Capitals’ systems. “I don’t have a problem with the system. It’s the matter of to get used to it and all will be fine with that.”

Looking at the roster now, it appears that Fehervary is ready to draw into the lineup, and it looks like van Riemsdyk is ready to take on the task playing on the left side. He looked solid playing on his off-side over the course of exhibitions. Irwin is also an extra LHD who has looked strong and can draw in if need be.

Washington’s roster now sits at 26 players and needs to be down to 23 for opening night.

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