Barreling toward roster completion with just one preseason game remaining, the Washington Capitals released five more players Friday to their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey. None were unexpected. All helped clear space for the final cuts before Tuesday’s NHL deadline.
Forwards Chris Conner and Kris Newbury were placed onto waivers as of noon and will be given 24 hours to clear before reporting to Bears camp. If any other NHL team wishes to claim them, they must pay the Capitals $11,250 and $7,500, respectively, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Forward Nathan Walker, defenseman Patrick Wey and goaltender Philipp Grubauer, all three still on their entry-level deals, do not have to pass through waivers and can practice in Hershey immediately. Wey was among the defensemen battling for the sixth, seventh and eighth roster spots in Washington but had an outside chance at making it, while Grubauer is expected to spend the season as Hershey’s No. 1 netminding option. This June, Walker became the first Australian player picked in the NHL draft when the Capitals tabbed him in the third round, though he played for the Bears last season after a contract issue forced him to sign a one-year AHL deal.
Forwards Garrett Mitchell and Casey Wellman, both of whom were released to Hershey on Thursday, cleared waivers without being claimed.
This leaves the Capitals with 17 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders. Coach Barry Trotz announced his intentions to begin the season with 22 healthy players — likely 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies — so several more cuts must be made. Among the demotion candidates still hanging around are forward Dane Byers, who earned Trotz’s praise for fighting during a 6-1 drubbing at Buffalo, and free agent invitee Liam O’Brien, who against all odds has continued to impress the coaching staff, making it more imperative that he sign a deal — whether in the AHL or the NHL — before camp breaks.
Goaltender Edward Pasquale, still recovering from hip surgery, remained on the roster, as did the several blue-line candidates like Nate Schmidt, John Erskine, Steve Oleksy and Jack Hillen. Only two of those four defensemen are expected to stick around for the season opener.
The Capitals spent Friday at the Naval Academy in Annapolis on a team-bonding trip, will practice Saturday and conclude their exhibition schedule Sunday at home vs. Carolina.