Washington Capitals blueliner Michal Kempny seems ready to put the adversity and injury woes from last season behind him.
Kempny posted an Instagram video of himself training and lifting weights as he gears up for a return to action. It’s a good sign for the Czech d-man, who missed the Capitals 2020-21 campaign after suffering a torn Achilles in October.
He returned two games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, but a collision with an ice shoveler led to another ailment that halted his comeback.
Given the circumstances of the expansion draft and a tight salary cap, Kempny will be instrumental to the team’s blue line plans next season.
Right now, the Capitals could very well lose a left-handed defenseman to Seattle. Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson will likely earn seals of protection, and Justin Schultz seems like the likely candidate for that final spot if Washington goes with the 7-3-1 option. That would mean LHD Brenden Dillon, which would take away top-4 depth.
Beyond the draft, Washington also has free agency to worry about. Zdeno Chara‘s future remains in flux, as the pending UFA may choose to hang up the skates or head elsewhere. Cameron Schilling, another depth left-hand shot, could also head to the market.
Of course, these moves would lead to vacancies on the Capitals’ left side. Fortunately, they’re stacked when it comes to LHD. Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev could make the NHL jump next season. Bobby Nardella is also chomping at the bit, and RFA Lucas Johansen is still seeking his big break.
READ MORE ON WHN: Alexeyev making great progress on road to NHL
Sure, it’ll take time for Kempny to get back up to speed and fully to 100 percent. But when the time comes, a spot on the top-4 should be his to lose.
The 30-year-old has been a vital piece of the d-corps since coming over from Chicago in the middle of Washington’s Cup-winning season. He can skate well and is a solid puck-mover who can battle hard for the puck and block shots. Kempny has also become more physical over time and doesn’t shy away from sacrificing the body.
Kempny last laced ’em up for the Capitals in 2019-20. In 58 games, he registered three goals, 18 points, 72 blocks and 42 hits, and he was a plus-19.
Not only that, his skillset will mesh well with Peter Laviolette‘s systems. The Capitals’ bench boss encourages his defensemen to be mobile and help move the puck up ice, which bodes well for Kempny’s game. He can also log a lot of ice time and has shown solid chemistry with several different partners.
Kempny is entering the final year of his four-year, $10 million contract and will become a UFA next summer. Expect him to make a strong case for himself this season not just for an extension, but more responsibility.