Mike Richards was a midseason signing with an inexpensive price tag, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Consider him safe, as the team has used him on the third line to make it more a checking line. Trotz has also had him on the ice late in games when the Capitals are protecting a slim lead. MacLellan laughed and said he thinks Trotz “loves” Richards.
The three fourth-line forwards left: Michael Latta, Stanislav Galiev and Brooks Laich. Latta is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Galiev has only played in 17 games, with Wednesday arguably being his best performance. The Capitals have had him on the roster all season, fearing he’d be swiped if he was ever placed on waivers.
“It’s a tough situation for Stan and for us,” MacLellan said. “He’s been a late developer and he’s a little bit behind but because of the waiver rule, we have trouble getting him ice time in Hershey and getting him games up here. We could lose him, and I don’t think we’re comfortable with cutting the cord with him yet because we see some potential. In an ideal world, we would have like to have him going back and forth all year.”
Then there’s Laich, who has a $4.5 million cap hit on a contract that runs through the end of next season. In his 20s, he had five straight seasons of scoring at least 37 points, but injuries have taken their toll and he’s just not as productive a player at 32. Entering the season, MacLellan candidly said he expected more from Laich, and while he’s done well on the penalty kill, he has one goal and six assists.
“I think he’s been okay,” MacLellan said. “I think he’s done a good job on the penalty kill. Our penalty kill has done well this year and he’s been a big part of that group. He’s done well that way. Again, we’d like to see more production from him and it hasn’t come. But as far as penalty killing, he’s been good.”
MacLellan said the Capitals could trade a player, waive one, or both to clear the necessary cap room, saying it would all work itself out by the deadline, conveniently around the time Beagle is due to be back in the lineup. Waiving Laich would give the Capitals $950,000 in annual relief, as with that hefty of a contract, it’s unlikely he’d be claimed. It’s unclear if Washington will take that route.
“I’ve known him from the beginning,”MacLellan said of Laich. “I watched him in world juniors. I watched him in Binghamton, and you know, was part of the trade that got him here. He’s been a good soldier here for a long time, and he’s done well.
“It’s frustrating to see the injuries and the impact it’s had, but it’s part of a pro career, you know? I think we’ve got to respect what he’s done in the organization. He’s played a long time. He’s played here. He’s been loyal to the organization, so I think we have to give him respect for that.”
Do you then have to show that loyalty back?
“I mean, it’s still a business, so that always creeps in,” MacLellan said. “I mean, emotionally, yes, but the business part does kick in. there’s a point where, you know, there’s a business decision that needs to be made. That’s just what it is. You can’t get around it.”