The Washington Capitals continued to tweak their defense, trading a 2019 fifth-round pick to Montreal for defenseman Jakub Jerabek on Wednesday. The 26-year-old Czech is a left-shot, and as he’s played just 25 games in the NHL, it’s unclear where he fits in the Capitals’ plans.
Two days ago, Washington traded a third-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for left-shot defenseman Michal Kempny, but while General Manager Brian MacLellan said he envisions Kempny playing in the top four beside righty John Carlson, Jerabek is now one of four left-shots on the roster. He will compete for playing time with rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, as well as veteran Brooks Orpik. Like Kempny, Jerabek is a puck-moving blue liner, addressing the team’s struggles to efficiently get the puck out of its own end, and he’s similarly a rental addition as he’ll hit unrestricted free agency after the season. The Capitals have allowed 3.35 goals per game in the past 20 games.
The move came less than 30 minutes after depth defenseman Taylor Chorney was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Chorney’s departure cleared $800,000 in salary cap space, but Jerabek’s addition added another $925,000, so the Capitals now have roughly $617,000 in room. With Jerabek, the team also has the maximum 23 players on the roster, so another trade would require a corresponding move. Just two players on the roster are waiver-exempt and can be sent down to the American Hockey League without any risk: rookies Jakub Vrana and Madison Bowey.
On Tuesday, MacLellan said he was wary about parting with high draft picks after blockbuster deals the past two seasons depleted some of the team’s assets, but “I think if something makes sense with lower-end draft picks, we are more open to do that.”
Jerabek, who signed with Montreal as a free agent this summer, has one goal and three assists in 25 appearances this season, averaging 17:21 in ice time. The trade deadline isn’t until Feb. 26, so it’s possible Washington isn’t done dealing.
“I think trying to keep aware and communication with other teams on who is being moved, and I think it shifts and changes a lot,” MacLellan said Tuesday. “If something makes sense for us, we will try to improve our team.”
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