Photo: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
The storylines surrounding the Washington Capitals’ offseason have focused on getting younger, faster and to start looking towards the future. However, the acquisition of 30-year-old defenseman Joel Edmundson, didn’t quite fit that narrative.
Washington traded a 2024 third-round pick and a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the Brandon, MB native. The Habs are retaining 50% of his salary. Edmundson has one year left on his four-year, $14 million extension he signed back in September 2020.
“When we were going through the free-agent market and the trade market, he’s an element that we wanted to add to our lineup,” President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Brian MacLellan said at 2023 Capitals Development Camp. “Physical. Net front presence. Good leader. Has some good size.”
Washington had a tough time clearing the crease because of the lack of size on defense, and it made the lives of Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren extremely difficult at times. Prior to his arrival, the biggest defensemen on the team was the 6’4” Alex Alexeyev. So Edmundson’s 6’5” frame fits the criteria for what MacLellan was looking for.
He will also help the Capitals’ penalty kill, which was 11th in the NHL at 81.9%.
“Just being solid in front of the goalie and just making sure he can see the puck,” Edmundson said on July 1. “I love to use my stick to my defense, with some cross checks and make the opposition’s night miserable.”
Furthermore, Edmundson brings a veteran presence to the left side of the defense, which features 23-year-olds Martin Fehervary and Rasmus Sandin, along with 23-year-old Alexeyev.
The 2019 Stanley Cup champion had 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 61 games last year, but had a minus-29 rating. That was probably due to Montreal struggling, defensively.
In addition to bringing a big frame and leadership abilities, Edmundson gives Caps head coach Spencer Carbery flexibility with his defense pairings.
“He’s been a top-four guy at one point. He’s been a bottom pair guy, too,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to come in and see how the coaches want to use matchups, who’s playing together. He’ll get a shot to play with different guys and see how it works out, see who has chemistry and go from there.”
The big question with the 221-pound blueliner is his health. For a team that battled so many injuries last season, and a big factor in why the Capitals missed the playoffs, this could be a concern. Edmundson sustained an upper-body injury in late January and it held him out for 11 games. He also has a history of low-back issues.
Despite the questions regarding his health and age, Edmundson brings useful tools to Washington’s lineup. For a team that is not the fastest, and struggles to keep up with quick teams like the New Jersey Devils, physicality is one of the answers to slow down those teams.
Edmundson fits that bill and will look to make an instant impact in D.C.
By Jacob Cheris
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