Dillon is in the final season of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He was expected to arrive in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, and it had not been determined whether he will play Thursday at Capital One Arena against the Montreal Canadiens.
Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said the team would like to see Dillon in Thursday’s game, if possible. If not, he probably would be in the lineup Saturday at New Jersey before Washington plays an important matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday at home.
MacLellan said he had an eye on Dillon since he first came to the NHL in 2012, a year after he signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent. The Capitals felt the cost to add Dillon was fair — they gave up a 2020 second-round draft pick and a conditional third-round pick — especially with San Jose retaining 50 percent of Dillon’s salary and salary cap hit.
MacLellan seemed open to the idea of additional player moves in advance of Monday’s trade deadline, and he said they would probably involve forwards rather than defensemen.
“We’re going to pursue anything that we think can make us better,” MacLellan said. “We’ll continue to talk to teams. We’ve had conversations as we’ve had with the defense, and we’ll keep doing it and see if we can make our team better.”
When asked whether the team would be looking to make any major deals, MacLellan didn’t rule it out. He made clear, however, that goaltender Braden Holtby was not on the trading block.
MacLellan said he was satisfied with the Capitals’ depth on defense, even without Tuesday’s acquisition of Dillon.
“I think we have a good team that’s not playing the right way, and we need to find the right way to play,” MacLellan said of the Capitals, who have lost four of their past five games and are 10-10 over their past 20. “I think sometimes our defense is getting pinpointed for it where I think team defense should be more the focus of the criticism. I think our forwards contribute to the pressure that’s put on our 'D': wall play in our own end, back pressure, lack of a forecheck. I think our team game is off, and that results in poor defensive efforts from basically our team.”
Dillon, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 225 pounds, gives the Capitals five of the top 21 hitters in the NHL: Dillon, Tom Wilson, Radko Gudas, Alex Ovechkin and Garnet Hathaway.
“There are guys around the league that play hard and that play the right way, and he’s one of them,” Wilson said. “We’re really excited to have a guy like that come into our room. I’ve heard nothing but really top-tier things from pretty much everybody that knows him, so we’re excited to have him and excited to add him to the group.”
Reirden said Dillon, who is a left-handed shot and played on the left when paired with Brent Burns in San Jose, will play alongside either John Carlson or Dmitry Orlov.
“Now that we have another player here and who knows what else as we get closer to finishing up the deadline here, it creates competition and it’s going to bring out the best in our players, and how do they deal with the adversity?” Reirden said. “Some of these guys haven’t had to go through a lot of adversity this year or within their careers. And now they’re going to have to. We’ll get to see a little bit of the makeup of certain players and how they handle themselves as we make this final push in the last 20 games.”
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