Inside Capitals’ Roster Decisions, Reasoning Behind Waiving Snively
Here’s what went into the Washington Capitals’ decisions to waive Joe Snively and loan Aliaksei Protas to Hershey with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson returning on Sunday.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — With Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson making their season debuts on Sunday and finally drawing back into the mix, the Washington Capitals found themselves in a situation they hadn't been in for a while: they had too many healthy forwards. Amid the influx, they were then tasked with making cuts to reduce the number of cooks in the kitchen and get the roster at 23 skaters.
Ultimately, head coach Peter Laviolette and general manager Brian MacLellan got together to decide who would be on the outs with Wilson and Backstrom back in the mix. And, after a lengthy decision-making process and observation, Washington loaned Aliaksei Protas to Hershey and placing Joe Snively on waivers for the purpose of reassignment. In turn, mid-season additions Sonny Milano and Nicolas Aube-Kubel kept their spots on the roster, which now sits at 23.
But why did the Capitals go in that direction?
Laviolette had said back on Wednesday that he and GMBM had discussed the situation at length. Washington would get two top-6 forwards back, and not only were roster spots on the line but lineup spots, too. Taking all of that into account, it was meant to lit a fire under some players, and Laviolette said that the decisions wouldn't be easy but would reflect what the organization believes is best for the group going forward.
"We're going to make decisions that are best for the team and give us the best chance of being successful both short term and long term," Laviolette said.
When it comes to Protas, it was the logical move. The 22-year-old is the only player who didn't require waivers, so re-assigning him wouldn't put him at risk of being claimed. He is also still developing his game and can benefit from more ice time and responsibility in Hershey. He played 41 games up with Washington this season, dishing three goals and six assists while spending a lot of his time on the fourth line. Going back to the Bears, he can get more ice time and responsibility and continue to build on his experience while taking aspects from the NHL down with him and incorporating that further into his all-around game.
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The final cut wasn't going to be easy, though, for the Capitals, as three players seemed to be the most at risk. Milano and Aube-Kubel are two mid-season additions, as Milano signed a one-year, one-way deal in October while Aube-Kubel was claimed off waivers in November amid more injuries up front. Then, there's Snively, who had been a healthy scratch for the majority of the season but had worked hard in practice and proved to be a solid addition to the mix when he did get a jersey.
Milano has been a welcome addition to the mix, as he has fit in seamlessly on the top 6, works hard and can make things happen. He has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 29 games, which would put him on pace for 53 in a full 82-game season. The Long Island native has been able to maintain consistency in D.C. as well, and he has four goals in his last eight games and three points in his last three outings as well. His strong performance and ability to play on the top 6 and serve as an asset on the second power-play unit also makes him a key asset with the team turning things around.
Milano has not only earned the right to stay, but he also would likely be picked up if he went on waivers as th Capitals would watch him head elsewhere while getting nothing back.
While Aube-Kubel hasn't been immune to mistakes, as he's taken some costly penalties and also took a three-game suspension in one of his first games suiting up for the team, he has really turned his play around lately. He has goals in back-to-back games and has been impressive on the forecheck, while he's also clicked well skating alongside Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson. NAK is also strong in his own end and battles hard, and he doesn't shy away from throwing the body around. Through 14 games with Washington so far, he has six points, as well as 28 hits. Like Milano, he made a case to stay.
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Snively has shown flashes of impressive ability and had one assist in six games this season, and his seven points in 12 games last year are just a preview of what he can do when given time in the lineup. The Herndon, V.A. native has shown that he is an NHL-caliber player but hasn't gotten to really show that he can be a regular in the lineup. Plus, Snively has already been a healthy scratch each night, and with two more forwards coming back, he would likely remain further on the outs.
Therefore, waiving him was the logical step for both sides. If Snively is picked up, he'll get more ice time and experience at the NHL level, and if he clears, he'll get to play and take on more responsibility in the AHL. As for Washington, his one-way deal may not be the most appealing for teams to pick up as he is still a fringe NHLer who also spends a lot of time in the AHL. If he gets claimed, the Capitals would lose a solid prospect, but they would also still have two NHL-caliber extras in Milano and Aube-Kubel, who both match the 27-year-old forward's skill-set. And, if he does clear, the Capitals would just add to their already-impressive depth as he'd join the already-stacked Bears.