For Brian MacLellan and the Washington Capitals, the most difficult decision for the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft came at the blue line. Considering they could only protect three defensemen, the Capitals knew they risked losing a big name; it was just a matter of who. In the end, they didn’t want that to be Trevor van Riemsdyk.
In addition to John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov, the Capitals chose to protect TvR over Justin Schultz, Brenden Dillon and Nick Jensen. That being said, it appears more likely Seattle takes Schultz, a top-4 blueliner with offensive acumen and puck-moving prowess.
Though it could be a difficult loss for Washington, the Capitals made the right call on the blue line.
First off, Schultz carries a cap hit of $4 million for one more season. If Seattle takes on his contract, Washington will be able to clear a decent amount of cap space, giving them more salary to not only re-sign Alex Ovechkin but even explore the free-agent market. Van Riemsdyk only carries a hit of $950,000 over the next two seasons (he signed an extension in March) and is capable of logging extra minutes and being a consistent member of the lineup.
READ MORE ON WHN: Explaining the Washington Capitals’ Final Protected List
Not only that, TvR proved his worth as a reliable option. He played in just 20 games for the Capitals last season, but his time out was due to the fact that Washington’s d-corps were showing strong chemistry. Also, with their depth on the right side, there wasn’t really much of an opportunity to easily draw in. Still, when he did get a sweater, he capitalized on his opportunity in the lineup.
In his small sample size, the 29-year-old blueliner dished one goal, two helpers, 19 shots, 12 hits and 20 blocks. He only gave up the puck seven times, the least among all Capitals blueliners with 20 GP. Van Riemsdyk also battled hard for the puck, stacked up well against top players and continues to add physicality to his game. He also plays well on the penalty kill and has great defensive awareness and positioning.
On the other side of the ice, TvR also proved he can be an asset on the forecheck. While Schultz did lead the team in primary assists (12) and GF% (60), Van Riemsdyk’s advanced stats also show that he excelled when it came to moving the puck up ice and getting involved in the rush. He led Washington’s d-men in HDGF% (58.33), CF% (52.49) and xGF% (56.47). When it comes to his on-ice play, he makes good passes, is a strong skater and owns a strong point shot.
Taking that into account, he has the same potential to make an impact offensively — and for a much lower price.
Personality-wise, he’s a determined, driven and coachable player who’s a positive presence and willing to step up for his teammates. He’s also involved in the D.C. community and serves as the team’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” ambassador.
“He’s such a pro; every day he comes in and makes sure he’s ready to go,” Schultz said of TvR back in April. “You can see the way he stepped in [this past year and] didn’t miss a beat.”
Overall, Washington has a reliable d-man who can play a bigger role and can even make a case for the top-4. It’s also possible that the Kraken chose another player, but regardless, expect TvR to fill that void well and truly get a closer look in 2021-22.