MacLellan’s focus on acquiring forwards came amid an improvement in goaltender Vitek Vanecek’s play. Earlier this month, MacLellan said Washington was only interested in trading for a veteran goalie if it was an “obvious upgrade.” On Monday, MacLellan praised Vanecek’s play and said he was comfortable with Washington’s tandem of Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.
“[Vanecek] deserves the opportunity to take the team into the playoffs,” MacLellan said. “He had a real good stretch, got injured there, came back and still played well. I think we’ve got a certain comfort level with the way he’s played and the way he’s maintained it.”
Washington acquired Johansson from the Seattle Kraken for Daniel Sprong and two draft picks. Johansson, 31, was a first-round draft pick by the Capitals in 2009 and spent seven seasons with Washington. He played for four other teams before he landed in Seattle in August. He had six goals and 17 assists in 51 games with the expansion Kraken.
“He’s a really smart player,” forward Tom Wilson said. “He makes the players around him better. He makes smart plays — really good with the puck. He spends a lot of time with the puck. He was kind of a young veteran guy when I was drafted here. A lot of fond memories from those days.”
Seattle will retain 50 percent of Johansson’s $1.5 million salary. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Washington acquired Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes for a 2023 third-round draft pick. The 29-year-old is coming off sports hernia surgery in early February. MacLellan said Larsson will need about a week of practice before he is expected to be available. Arizona will retain 50 percent of Larsson’s $1.4 million salary, and he also is set to be a UFA after this season. Larsson, who can play center and left wing, has six goals and nine assists in 29 games.
“We’ve always liked Larsson, even when he was in Buffalo [from 2013 to 2020],” MacLellan said. “He was a real good defensive player, he’s versatile, he can play center, he can play wing, kills penalties, very responsible player, good five-on-five guy. I think there’s multiple uses for him also, and adding center depth if injuries occur is important for us, too.”
Johansson offers similar versatility. He had been a winger on Seattle’s second line, also can play center and will be an asset on the power play.
“Since he left, I think he’s developed a lot as a player,” said center Nicklas Backstrom, a fellow Swede. “I talk to him often, good friend of mine, and it will be fun to see him back here. I think it’s good for us as a team and fun for him to be back here.”
Washington sent Sprong, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a sixth-round selection in 2023 to Seattle. Sprong’s play was lackluster in Washington — the coaching staff frequently noted that the 25-year-old needed to show improvement, especially defensively — but he has a high upside. He had eight goals and six assists in 47 games this season.
During his introductory news conference with Seattle, Sprong said he did not expect to be traded and thought this season was going to be a “breakout year” with the Capitals. Kraken General Manager Ron Francis said Sprong “was a player they wanted to give back to us.”
“I thought in general I was playing good hockey,” Sprong said. “The business side, it is what it is. But I know I can be a productive player in this league, and I’m going to get 20 games there in Seattle to show it.”
Defenseman John Carlson did not participate in Monday’s optional practice after leaving Washington’s loss to Dallas on Sunday with an undisclosed injury. Coach Peter Laviolette had no updates on Carlson’s status. Carlson was hurt after the Stars’ Jamie Benn appeared to shove him into the boards during a chase for the puck in the final seconds. No penalty was called, and Benn received no supplemental discipline from the NHL.
MacLellan said forward Carl Hagelin, who is on long-term injured reserve after eye surgery in early March, is set to have another procedure.