MacLellan & Laviolette Discussing Roster Moves For Capitals With Backstrom, Wilson Close
The Washington Capitals are ready to make some tough roster decisions with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson closing in on returns.
WASHINGTON — As Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson close in on their returns to play, the Washington Capitals face some tough roster decisions as they look to make room for the two to draw back into the mix — and head coach Peter Laviolette knows there aren't any easy choices to make.
Laviolette said that he and general manager Brian MacLellan are discussing next steps for the team with Backstrom and Wilson getting ready to join the club again. Both are expected to be back in the next couple of games as Backstrom makes a miraculous comeback from hip resurfacing surgery while Wilson gets back in the mix after recovering from a torn ACL. Not only does cap space need to be open for the two, but the Capitals need to open up roster spots to allow Backstrom and Wilson to be activated.
"I'm going to get with Brian and talk about things. We've already had some conversations about what it might look like, and obviously, things that need to go on," Laviolette said, but cautioned, "I've said it to you a bunch of times, I say it to Mac, too: we should never really get to that point where we say, 'Okay, we have this number of players.' Because something always comes up."
The addition of Backstrom and Wilson will put Washington at 16 forwards and 25 total skaters, which would be two above the 23-man maximum. John Carlson, who will be out long-term and likely months after taking a slapshot to the face on Dec. 23, is expected to go on the long-term injured reserve, which will create space, but he is already on the IR, so it does not open up another roster spot.
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Taking that into account, two spots will have to be opened up, and there is an influx of forwards. In addition to the usual formation, Washington has rookie Aliaksei Protas still on board after he stunned in training camp to secure a roster spot. In addition to him, Joe Snively remains up with the big club as an extra. And in the middle of this season, the Capitals added Sonny Milano and Nicolas Aube-Kubel with the team needing reinforcements amid more ailments in October and November.
There will be some tough decisions to make, but it will likely be two of those forwards on the outs and the one more losing a roster spot with Backstorm and Wilson expected to be "integrated quickly" into the top 6. However, Laviolette said these decisions wouldn't be easy, as each of these players has shown what they can do and have battled to stay in the mix. Protas is the only player on this list that is waiver-exempt.
"When that time comes, we're going to make decisions that are the best for the team and give us the best chance of being successful both short term an long term," Laviolette said.