The Washington Capitals turned some heads Wednesday afternoon when they placed forward Devante Smith-Pelly on waivers.
The move came after a confusing sequence of events in which the team originally planned to waive forward Dmitrij Jaskin, not Smith-Pelly.
The Capitals told Jaskin he would be placed on waivers, so he did not practice with the team in Toronto a day before they play the Maple Leafs. But in the middle of practice, Smith-Pelly left the ice as the team informed him he would be waived instead.
“There’s a lot of movement going on, especially for teams that are salary cap-strapped like we are,” coach Todd Reirden told reporters after practice.
“Earlier in the day we had made the decision to put Jaskin on waivers, and we changed our mind and (Smith-Pelly) was notified during practice.”
Placing Smith-Pelly on waivers brings Washington’s NHL roster to 22 players, opening a spot for a potential acquisition before Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Reirden acknowledged that the Capitals could make another transaction soon.
“There’s lots going on right now,” he said. “Like I said, we’re always trying to improve our team and the direction we’re going and get better. There’s lots of moving parts right now in a number of different spots.”
Smith-Pelly was a fan favorite and Stanley Cup hero. He scored three goals in the final three games of the Stanley Cup Final last June to propel Washington to its first-ever championship.
In 54 appearances this year, though, Smith-Pelly only totaled eight points (four goals, four assists) and a minus-6 player rating. He was playing on a one-year contract extension signed over the summer.
Waiving Smith-Pelly also clears his $1 million cap hit from the NHL roster, giving the Capitals more space to add someone via trade. The team entered the day with only about $237,000 in cap space, according to the website capfriendly.com.
If no team claims him by noon Thursday, Smith-Pelly will clear waivers and can be assigned to the AHL Hershey Bears.
The 26-year-old journeyman has not played in the minor leagues since the 2013-14 season.
But it’s likely another NHL team, most probably a playoff contender, will see Smith-Pelly as an inexpensive half-season rental with playoff experience and pick him up.