Back before the trade deadline, Washington parted with a second-round pick as well as a third-rounder to add defenseman Brenden Dillon from San Jose for the stretch run. It appears that the Capitals have seen enough to want to keep him around as Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that the team is actively pursuing a new contract for the pending unrestricted free agent.
The 29-year-old immediately stepped into a spot on Washington’s top four after being acquired, averaging just over 20 minutes a game after being acquired and nearly 23 minutes per night in the playoffs which had him behind only John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov. While he won’t provide much in the way of offense (he averages three goals per 82 games over his nine-year NHL career), Dillon is a stabilizing defensive presence that can kill penalties while bringing some physicality to the table as well. In other words, he’s the type of veteran that a lot of teams will want to have.
Dillon carried a $3.27MM cap hit on his now-expiring contract although his salary was $3.9MM in each of the last two years. The latter number may be a better indicator of what his next deal could look like, especially using Montreal’s Joel Edmundson as a comparable (four years, $14MM). There are only a handful of top-four defensemen that are set to hit the open market next month so Dillon will have some leverage in negotiations. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan is determined to not let it get that far.
As for other free agents in Washington, El-Bashir reports that fellow Radko Gudas and winger Ilya Kovalchuk will join Braden Holtby in not returning; MacLellan confirmed earlier this month that the netminder would go to free agency. Meanwhile, Washington may have some hesitance in tendering center Travis Boyd a qualifying offer due to his arbitration eligibility. The 27-year-old only played in 24 games this season but put up 10 points which would certainly bolster his case in a hearing.