With a new brain trust in place, the Washington Capitals head into the NHL Draft June 27 with a pragmatic strategy.
"Our philosophy is to take the best player available," said assistant general manager Ross Mahoney, who holds the primary responsibility for the draft. "We don't want to pass on a player just for position [reasons]."
The Capitals hold the No. 13 pick during the first round June 27, which will be held at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center. And with many experts labeling this a draft filled with solid players, but no transcendent ones, Washington is doing its due diligence to ensure it lands an impact contributor.
"Every year is a challenge, but it's a challenge we look forward to," Mahoney said. "It's a decent year. The depth might not be there, but that's our job -- to find players, no matter what kind of year it is."
The Capitals are in search of a defenseman, which was an area of need for the team during the 2013-14 season, and during previous drafts, that has been an area the team has targeted. Washington has taken 18 defensemen during the first round, more than any other position.
"All things equal, we want to be strong down the middle -- good centers, good defensemen," Mahoney said.
The top defenseman in the draft, Aaron Ekblad, figures to be gone by the time No. 13 rolls around, so other targets for the Capitals include Haydn Fleury and Travis Sanheim of the Western Hockey League, Jack Dougherty of the U.S. Developmental Program and Anthony DeAngelo of the Ontario Hockey League.
The Capitals could move up to get someone they covet, but as of now, Mahoney said that's not the plan.
"Every draft, we talk about that, having a look at moving up or moving back," Mahoney said. "Those are things we're still discussing as an organization. You identify players you would really like to get and if you feel like they might be going before you pick, you decide if you want to move up.
"Or is it better to move back a bit and get an extra pick and the players you like? You have some layering that takes place and you need to see those layers."
The trade market also figures to be humming during the draft, and general manager Brian MacLellan said he would certainly keep his options open if someone wanted to make an offer.
"There seem to be bigger names being talked about on the trade market," MacLellan said. "We'll see if that comes to fruition. I've talked to probably half of the GMs so far. If there's a chance that something is a good fit -- I don't think they're going to give centers and defensemen away -- I'm going to explore it."
Washington has nine total draft picks -- rounds 2-7 will be held June 28.
Note: The Capitals hired Todd Reirden as assistant coach June 25. Reirden was formerly an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they let him go after hiring Mike Johnston as head coach. Reirden will replace Calle Johansson, who is returning to his native Sweden for personal reasons, on new coach Barry Trotz's staff.
Reirden, 43, worked primarily with the Penguins' defense and power-play unit, and that outfit was one of the league's best during the 2013-14 season, scoring 164 goals. Reirden's defensemen ranked in the top 12 in goals during three of his four seasons in Pittsburgh.