The Washington Capitals offseason has started off poorly, with the team announcing today that Michal Kempny has suffered an Achilles tendon injury. The defenseman has undergone surgery and is expected to miss six to eight months. Kempny suffered the injury during his offseason training in the Czech Republic.
This is brutal news for Kempny, who spent all of last season trying to get back to full-strength after surgery to repair a torn hamstring in April 2019. The fleet-footed defenseman was only able to record 18 points in 58 games and just didn’t make the same impact he had the year prior. Now with another long rehab in front of him, he’ll have to hope that he can get back during the 2020-21 season at all.
Perhaps on cue however, the Capitals have re-signed Brenden Dillon to a new four-year contract with an average annual value of $3.9MM. Dillon was scheduled for unrestricted free agency on Friday and the Capitals had been reportedly trying to move some money out in order to fit his salary in. With Kempny likely headed for long-term injured reserve, that flexibility is now available without trading out an asset.
Still, given the season isn’t set to start until January, Kempny could be back at some point and taken of LTIR. That means the Capitals still can’t go overboard in free agency and are still in a rather precarious salary cap position. Radko Gudas, who was the team’s other pending UFA defenseman, is expected to reach free agency.
Dillon, 29, came to the Capitals in a February trade with the San Jose Sharks that saw two relatively high draft picks go the other way. After using that much draft capital to acquire him and seeing him fit in so well, it made sense for Washington to try and retain Dillon’s services this offseason.
Though he will never be expected to put up big offensive numbers, the veteran defenseman has shown an ability to skate beside some of the league’s best and lock down his own end. His possession numbers have always been strong and he brings a physical element that is becoming rarer in the NHL.
Even with Dillon back in the fold, the Capitals could have to rely more heavily on their young prospect pipeline this season. Several high draft picks are pushing for an opportunity at the NHL level and with Kempny headed for a long stint on the injured list, it may just be available.