11:28 am: According to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, the Capitals have indeed made those corresponding moves. Alexeyev, as well as goaltender Darcy Kuemper, have both been placed on IR. Kuemper’s IR placement shouldn’t come as too much of a concern, as it is retroactive to December 3rd, meaning he could come back as soon as Tuesday when the team is in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks.
10:44 am: The Washington Capitals announced they’ve recalled a pair of defensemen in that of Lucas Johansen and Dylan McIlrath from the Hershey Bears, their AHL affiliate. While no other corresponding moves were formally announced, the Capitals’ roster is already full at 23 players. The moves could signal an IR stint for defenseman Alexander Alexeyev, who suffered an upper-body injury in Friday night’s game against the Seattle Kraken. Despite being at 23 skaters, the Capitals had just six defenseman before the recalls, which included Alexeyev.
Notably, these two recalls seem to cap off a morning of defenseman shuffling in the Capitals organization. Earlier, the Hershey Bears announced they’ve recalled defenseman Martin Has from the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. That recall came not only with Johansen and McIlrath’s recalls in mind, but after the Bears lost defenseman Bobby Nardella during the first period of last night’s game with an undisclosed injury. For Has, 21, he could have a chance to take the next step in his development after a solid start to this season in the ECHL with three points in 14 games. This is the defenseman’s first professional season in North America, spending last season with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL.
Johansen, 25, is a former first-round pick of the Capitals back in 2016, but has played in just two NHL games to date, one in each of the last two seasons. He may not have hit the ceiling expected of him as a first-round selection however he has turned into a solid defenseman at the AHL level. Given Washington’s injury issues on defense this season, which include Alexeyev and Dmitry Orlov, both left-handed, the left-handed Johansen may get a chance to shine.
McIlrath, 30, is a longtime veteran of the AHL and NHL as well. The former 10th-overall pick back in 2010 to the New York Rangers, has played in 66 NHL games total, spread over six different seasons between the Rangers, Florida Panthers, and Detroit Red Wings. The veteran hasn’t played in the NHL since 2019-20, when he got into 16 games with Detroit. This is McIlrath’s second season with Hershey, recording just five assists in 22 games to start this season, but does have a respectable 36 penalty minutes in that span, playing the role of physical shutdown defenseman.
Interestingly, McIlrath did appear to have a two game NHL suspension awaiting him upon his recall. He had been suspended during the 2021 preseason for two preseason games and two regular season games, but hadn’t played in the NHL, during the regular season, since. However, as NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reports, according to the Capitals organization, the NHL and NHLPA reached a settlement agreement this fall that allowed McIlrath’s two regular season games to be served during this preseason. Thus, McIlrath should be eligible to play tonight against the Winnipeg Jets, should Washington choose to dress him. Gulitti was also the first to raise the question about the suspension.