MacLellan, Capitals Have Clear Plan In Place For Future Of Blue Line
The Washington Capitals have a clear vision and plan when it comes to building their blue line of the future, and it heavily involves Rasmus Sandin and Martin Fehervary.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — With time winding down in overtime on Thursday, Washington Capitals defenseman Rasmus Sandin came back to the bench feeling the burn, as he finished out his 30th shift for a total of 29:58 minutes played against the New Jersey Devils.
It came as no surprise for the Swede, who has been thrown into the fire since being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Erik Gustafsson. With Gustafsson and Dmitry Orlov no longer in the mix and John Carlson still recovering from a slapshot to the face, Sandin has stepped right into the role of a No. 1 defenseman, and he's acclimated quite well. It's a good sign for general manager Brian MacLellan and the team, as that's the role he's expected to take on in the future.
MacLellan detailed his plans for building the future blue line, given that Sandin, Carlson, Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk are the only roster defensemen signed past this season, and Sandin will become a restricted free agent at the end of next season. Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev are RFAs at the end of this season, while Matt Irwin and Gabriel Carlsson are pending UFAs.
While Carlson, Jensen and TVR serve as veterans and who can round out the top-4 and secure depth on the right side for the next few seasons (TVR can also plan on the left), MacLellan said that Sandin and Fehervary are two young blueliners that the organization wants to focus on as they look ahead to the future. Carlson, Jensen and TVR's deals all end in 2027.
"I think we got two young guys, Sandin and [Fehervary], that hopefully we can build around going forward," MacLellan said. "We're going to have two young top-4 defensemen that'll be a big part of our team for a lot of years to come."
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Sandin has already been fitting in well with his new team, as he has a goal and four assists through just three games with the Capitals so far. He is also logging heavy minutes at even strength and on special teams, all while moving the puck with poise, skating efficiently and playing well at both ends of the ice.
"It means a lot. It’s very fun that they have that belief in you and now it’s up to me to keep playing good to stick in that spot," Sandin said of stepping right into a No. 1 role. "It’s been a lot of fun and it’s fun that the coaching staff believes in me for sure.”
Beyond Sandin and Fehervary, there are also high hopes for Alexeyev, who has been taking on more minutes following the sell-off prior to the deadline and has also shown his potential as a top-4 blueliner.
"It feels great, the coaches trusting you is a good sign, and I just got to keep it going, work hard," Alexeyev said.
In addition to Alexeyev, there are also several young defensemen waiting for their full-time NHL chance, including Lucas Johansen and Vincent Iorio, who impressed during his three-game call-up.
At the end of the day, there is a lot of promise and potential for the blue line, but for MacLellan and Washington, the goal is to get younger and continue to retool on the fly, and with 23-year-olds Sandin and Fehervary at the helm, the d-corps hope to remain competitive for years to come.
"Our goal is to add some younger players. We did that with Sandin, Marty Fehervary is coming, we'll see where Alexeyev is here down the stretch… I think we're adding a lot of good pieces that we can continue to be competitive," MacLellan said.