The danger of the NHL Expansion Draft is teams losing out on keys players. The Washington Capitals have now been exposed to the danger, as the Vegas Golden Knights selected defenseman Nate Schmidt.
Schmidt, 25, is coming off his best season of his young career in 2016-17. In 60 games, Schmidt collected 17 points (3 goals, 14 assists) and was a plus-22. The gritty tough young defenseman was well on his way to developing into one of the better defensemen on the Capitals team with Brooks Orpik, 36 aging.
According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN Hockey, the Capitals tried to retain Schmidt. However, the price of the Golden Knights was ultimately too steep for the Capitals.
The Caps were talking with VKG to try and swing a deal to lay off taking Schmidt but price was deemed too high…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 21, 2017
When the Capitals revealed their protected list, the daring move of leaving Schmidt unprotected drew a cause of concern from a fans standpoint, as did goalie Phillip Grubauer. Vegas was required to draft a player from each team. With the Golden Knights able to secure a deal for Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, the chances of Schmidt being pluck grew increasingly.
Now the Capitals have to regroup as free agency approaches with some of their younger talents at defenseman to develop. Schmidt was on the verge of becoming a top-4 defenseman and he was expected to be paired with John Carlson. The Capitals don’t have much NHL-ready depth to turn to replace Schmidt.
Orpik is transitioning into a depth player as he plays out the final leg of his five-year deal. Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos are waiting in the wings but with no NHL experience to date, it’s hard to imagine either being plugged as a top-4 defenseman. Washington’s cap space is tight making any chance of landing a top-4 defenseman in free agency highly unlikely.
Losing Schmidt hurts, especially with the team presumably set to look to a retooling after another devastating second-round exit in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. How the Capitals regroup is sure to be the biggest storyline this offseason.