Washington Capitals

Quick Links

Devante Smith-Pelly was surprised by buy out but confident as training camp approaches

dvpgallery.png
USA TODAY Sports

Devante Smith-Pelly was surprised by buy out but confident as training camp approaches

ARLINGTON, Va. — Devante Smith-Pelly took to the ice Saturday for his first informal skate as a member of the Washington Capital after an unexpected change of scenery over the summer.

This is not where Smith-Pelly expected to be.

The New Jersey Devils elected to buy out the second and final year of the 25-year-old’s contract making him an unexpected free agent. It was a move that caught Smith-Pelly completely by surprise.

“I got the call the day the buyout happened,” he said to CSN after Saturday’s skate. “I had no idea.”

RELATED: CAPS ADD ALEX CHIASSON TO CAMP ROSTER WITH A PTO

It was yet another change in a tumultuous career that started with immense promise. In the 2014 postseason, Smith-Pelly roared onto the NHL stage with five goals in 12 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks. He has been trying to live up to that postseason ever since. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in February 2015 and traded to New Jersey just one year later in February 2016. He seemed to find a spark with the Devils scoring eight goals in 18 games which earned him a two-year deal to stay in New Jersey, but the Devils bought Smith-Pelly out of that contract after scoring just nine points in 53 games last season.

But Smith-Pelly feels as if he may have landed on his feet by signing with the Caps.

“Washington was one of the first teams that we talked to and we thought it would be a good fit,” he said.

New Jersey’s loss could be Washington’s gain if Smith-Pelly is able to raise his play to the level he showed in 2014. How can he do that? He believes confidence is the key.

“I think I showed in New Jersey when I first got there, when I'm confident and feeling good about the way I'm playing I can produce and help out,” Smith-Pelly said. “I'm coming into this camp super confident. I worked hard this summer and I did a lot extra to make sure I'm ready. I'm looking forward to it.”

It’s a good thing he did that extra work because a roster spot is far from guaranteed.

Smith-Pelly is among several players competing for a spot on the Capitals’ fourth line. Nathan Walker, Riley Barber, Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd and Anthony Peluso are all expected to compete to earn a spot on the open wings alongside Jay Beagle. The team also added Alex Chiasson on a PTO on Saturday.

Smith-Pelly knows there is plenty of competition just to make the team, but as he is now on his fourth team in his short career, he is willing to do whatever it takes to play.

When asked what he needed to show the team in camp, he said “Whatever coach asks. I think I've always been willing to do that. ... I'll be looking forward to impressing them.”

MORE CAPITALS: DMITRY ORLOV ENTERS THE SEASON AS ONE OF THE CAPS TOP DEFENSEMEN

Quick Links

Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

usatsi_9568989.jpg

Caps make 17 cuts Sunday, pare roster to 36

The Capitals have made another significant round of cuts, reassigning 16 players to AHL Hershey and releasing another.

Among the players headed to the Bears are: forwards John Albert, Mathias Bau, Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley, Hampus Gustafsson, Tim McGauley, Garrett Mitchell, Mason Mitchell and Wayne Simpson; defensemen Kristofers Bindulis, Connor Hobbs, Tommy Hughes, Lucas Johansen, Hubert Labrie; and goalies Adam Carlson and Vitek Vanecek.

The club also released forward Stephen Collins.

The highest profile cuts were Johansen, the team's first round pick in 2016, and Hobbs. The Caps have high hopes for the young blue liners, but it’s obvious both will benefit from some seasoning in the minor leagues as they make the leap from junior to the pro ranks.

Hershey’s training opens on Monday.

After taking Sunday off, the Caps will return to practice on Monday with a roster of 36 players—and three preseason games left to sort out the position battles.  

Forwards Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Liam O’Brien, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana and Nathan Walker are left battling for the three available jobs up front.

Meanwhile, defensemen Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Jyrki Jokipakka, Tyler Lewington, Aaron Ness, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams are competing for the two open spots on the backend.

Although some players, such as Chiasson and Walker, have already begun to separate themselves from the others, you can expect the competition to intensify over the next week. The Caps host the Devils on Wednesday, then play at the Hurricanes on Friday and at the Blues on Sunday.

Quick Links

Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

usatsi_10028482.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Did Barry Trotz show us what his fourth line will be to start the season?

Barry Trotz likes to play his cards close to the vest. With roster battles and lineup holes surrounding the team, there are plenty of questions for the Caps that need answering this preseason. If you look at how Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes ended, however, he may have given us at least one answer.

At the start of the game, Jay Beagle centered a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and Wayne Simpson on his wings. By the end of the game, Nathan Walker was playing on the left with Beagle at center and Smith-Pelly on the right.

"Walker was giving us some energy, he was giving us some speed and I just made that flip," Trotz told reporters after the game. "I just thought Walks was starting to make things happen. His speed was noticeable, his will on the puck if you will was really good. I thought that'd be a good fit. I just moved him over there and I thought he had an effect on the game."

Could that have been a preview of the team's fourth line?

RELATED: CHIASSON, WALKER MAKE THEIR CASE TO MAKE THE TEAM

Walker turned in another tremendous performance showing great energy, speed and grit. Despite being 5-foot-8, he still remains a feisty player who could be found at the center of every scrum. He exchanged hits and jabs with the 6-foot-3 Klas Dahlbeck multiple times throughout the game and even drew a penalty on the Carolina defenseman as he drove the net after managing to slip away from a hit along the boards.

"He's one of those hard guys to play against because ... they're on you all the time," Trotz said. "When you can affect the opposition and take them out of their game because the way you play, then you're pretty effective."

That brings us back to the lines. The Caps have not one, but two openings on the fourth line to play alongside Beagle. The fact that Trotz put Walker and Smith-Pelly on that line, two players fighting for a spot in the lineup, could be a preview of what the fourth line may ultimately look like to start the season.

That would be just fine with Beagle.

"It's fun to play with a guy who brings that much energy," Beagle said of Walker. "He's always had that energy and he's always been a little guy who grinds it out and isn't afraid to get in there and get in the corners and wins a lot of battles. He's awesome to play with. He's a lot of fun."

At this point, given how he has played in his two preseason games, it is hard to see how Walker does not make the roster. His energy and style are a perfect fit for what the Caps need on their fourth line. He would be an excellent compliment to Beagle and that has not escaped Trotz's notice.

"I think they might enjoy playing together, but they're effective together," Trotz said. "They get on the puck, they work you over and they tire you out. I'll tell you that."

With other players such as Alex Chiasson, Riley Barber and Anthony Peluso still vying to make the team, it is still too early to tell if this is definitively what the fourth line will look like, but the trio certainly made their case.

MORE CAPITALS: TOM WILSON SUSPENDED 2 PRESEASON GAMES