Capitals prospect McMichael could earn role in forward group

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, the Washington Capitals:

2020-21 season: 36-15-5, second in MassMutual East Division; lost in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Matt Irwin, D: The 33-year-old, who signed a one-year, two-way contract July 28, played four seasons for Capitals coach Peter Laviolette with the Nashville Predators (2016-20) and could provide experience and depth. Irwin had two assists in 24 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season. … Dylan McIlrath, D: The 29-year-old could be another depth option after signing a two-year, two-way contract July 28. McIlrath, who scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in 29 American Hockey League games with Grand Rapids last season, has played in 66 NHL games during seven seasons with the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Key departures

Brenden Dillon, D: He was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on July 26 for second-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft and the 2023 NHL Draft to clear NHL salary cap space. Washington traded the 2023 pick to reacquire goalie Vitek Vanecek from the Seattle Kraken on July 28 after losing him in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Dillon scored 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) and averaged 18:57 of ice time in 56 games last season. … Zdeno Chara, D: The 44-year-old remains an unrestricted free agent and it is unclear if he’ll play a 24th NHL season. Chara scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and averaged 18:19 of ice time in 55 games last season. … Michael Raffl, F: He signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Stars on July 29 after scoring three points (one goal, two assists) in 10 games last season after he was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on April 12. … Craig Anderson, G: The 40-year-old signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres on July 28 after going 2-1-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in four games (two starts) last season. … Henrik Lundqvist, G: The 39-year-old announced his retirement from hockey Aug. 20. He signed a one-year contract with the Capitals on Oct. 9, 2020 but didn’t play last season because of a heart condition.

On the cusp

Connor McMichael, F: The 20-year-old, who was the No. 25 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut Jan. 24 and led Hershey (AHL) with 14 goals and 27 points in 33 games last season. …  Martin Fehervary, D: He scored 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 24 games with Hershey last season and had one assist in six games with the Capitals in 2019-20. Fehervary, who turns 22 Oct. 6, was a second-round pick (No. 46) in the 2018 NHL Draft. … Alexander Alexeyev, D: The 21-year-old, who was the No. 31 pick in the 2018 draft, scored 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 55 games with Ufa in the Kontinental Hockey League and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 12 games with Hershey last season.

What they still need

Roster flexibility. Finding room for Fehervary and McMichael to play regularly in the NHL this season will become more pressing if each proves he is ready in training camp. Adding a veteran goalie also remains a possibility.

They said it

“With ‘Ovi’ signing back and a lot of returning players, I think we had a lot of positives last year. I think the team was top six, seven in the League (in points). Specialty teams were up top 10 in the League. Underperformed in the playoffs a little bit, but I think we’ll be competitive with the best teams in the League this year.” — general manager Brian MacLellan after re-signing forward Alex Ovechkin to a five-year contract July 27

Fantasy focus

Anthony Mantha scored eight points (four goals, four assists) in 14 regular-season games with the Capitals last season after he was acquired in a trade with the Red Wings on April 12. The forward has guaranteed top-six exposure to either valuable center Nicklas Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov, making him a safe fantasy option in middle rounds. It’s feasible to suggest Mantha could exceed his NHL career-high 25 goals (2018-19) if he stays healthy. — Rob Reese

Projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Tom Wilson

Anthony Mantha — Nicklas Backstrom — T.J. Oshie

Conor ShearyLars EllerDaniel Sprong

Carl HagelinNic DowdGarnet Hathaway

Dmitry OrlovJohn Carlson

Michal KempnyJustin Schultz

Martin Fehervary — Nick Jensen

Ilya Samsonov

Vitek Vanecek

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