The Capitals made a pair of changes to the blueline Tuesday, sending Steve Oleksy to the AHL’s Hershey Bears after he cleared waivers and recalling Nate Schmidt.
Oleksy, 27, appeared in 33 games for the Capitals this season but as a right-handed shot had been one of several defensemen vying for ice time on the third pairing. He sat out seven consecutive games as a healthy scratch before being placed on waivers Monday and had simply fallen out of the mix in Washington.
“The cycle keeps going and you see things. You don’t want a guy to sit too long,” Coach Adam Oates said before Oleksy cleared waivers at noon Tuesday. “It makes for a difficult position. You put him on waivers because [there’s] no other choice. You hope he gets picked up and gets a chance to play. He’s been great about it.”
Oleksy is one of 12 defenseman who have suited up for the Capitals this season as they’ve searched for stability on the back end and he appeared in 13 straight games from December to early January. But when rookie Connor Carrick was recalled back on Jan. 8 and immediately took Oleksy’s spot in the lineup the next game it was clear the Capitals were looking for a more mobile defenseman.
“The puck moving ability,” Oates said. “We’ve got to get out of our zone better cleaner and moving the puck, giving the forwards the puck sooner a little quicker, exits every night.”
Once Oleksy cleared waivers it gave Washington the space under the salary cap to formally recall left-handed defenseman Nate Schmidt, who carries a cap hit of $925,000.
Schmidt, 22, appeared in 28 games for the Capitals this season from October to Dec. 13 at Florida. He was reassigned to Hershey when John Erskine came back to the lineup after missing time with a knee injury and has appeared in 15 AHL games, recording six assists, since then. Schmidt took part in a brief workout with Capitals’ strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish once the transaction was official but it seems unlikely he’ll suit up against the Senators.