Around 10:45 p.m., a Toronto number Daniel Winnik didn’t recognize flashed on his phone. He figured it was Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello and braced for what came next, having done this before.
“I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to get traded or where,” Winnik said on a conference call. “I definitely was not expecting to come to the Capitals.”
Winnik moves from the NHL’s worst team to its best. Because of a few Visa hang-ups, Winnik said he will likely arrive on Tuesday night, and he expects to be in the lineup on Wednesday. That means his Capitals debut will be against the Maple Leafs, his former team.
“It kind of revitalizes your play,” Winnik said of moving to a contending team. “It brings more meaning to the games, that’s for sure. Nothing against what we’ve been doing in Toronto; you kind of try and play spoiler when you’re out of the playoffs, like we’ve been in Toronto. But coming to a team that’s in a pretty cushy playoff position, you always just want to keep playing better and win more games, so we finish first in the East and hopefully win the President’s Trophy as well.”
Washington will be the seventh team Winnik has played for, and with an expiring contract last season, he was dealt before the trade deadline to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He expected that, as unrestricted free agents on teams that aren’t in the playoff hunt are often for sale. But now he has another year left on his contract, which carries a $2.25 million cap hit, so he was “pretty shocked” this time.
In 56 games played for the Maple Leafs this season, Winnik had four goals and 10 assists. He’s expected to play alongside Mike Richards and Jay Beagle on the Capitals’ fourth line and also kill penalties. Winnik said he has relationships with Taylor Chorney and Tom Wilson. When he spoke to reporters at noon, he had already received text messages from Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams welcoming him.
He also spoke with Washington General Manager Brian MacLellan and Coach Barry Trotz.
“He likes my game and understands what I bring, so that’s an important thing for me,” Winnik said of Trotz. “He knows what type of player I am. He probably remembers me more from my time in the Western Conference than the last two years in the East.”
Laich is expected to be in Toronto’s lineup on Monday night, as is Carrick.
“He’s a real good man, a real good person,” Maple Leafs Coach Mike Babcock told Toronto reporters of Laich. “Obviously, he’s in the last year, coming up, of his deal. I know he treats people real well and he’ll be a good guy to be around our kids.”