Brenden Dillon trade leaves serious questions on left side of Capitals defense

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Dillon trade leaves serious questions on left side of Caps defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

We knew a trade had to happen and it came on Monday as the Capitals traded defenseman Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets for two second round draft picks.

There is a lot to like about this trade. The Caps were in a serious cap crunch and had to move significant salary. General manager Brian MacLellan managed to move a player with a $3.9 million cap hit and three years remaining on his contract and he managed to get value back in return with two second round picks. That is a really good return on a three-year salary dump.

With Dillon gone, the Caps now have about $12.8 million in cap space if you include prospect Martin Fehervary on the roster. Can the Caps get Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Samsonov and possibly a 13th forward signed within that $12.8 million? It's definitely possible.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Dillon's departure leaves a major hole on the left side of the defense.

Dmitry Orlov is the top left defenseman on the team. Michal Kempny will be returning from an Achilles injury, plus MacLellan noted at the end-of-season media availability that he felt Fehervary was ready to make the jump to the NHL next season. That's three defensemen to go with the team's four righties. But the question is not about bodies, it's about what you can expect from those bodies.

Kempny is coming off his second major injury and one that kept him out the entire 2021 season. He struggled in his return from a hamstring injury and there's no way to know what to expect from him when he returns next season. Fehervary, meanwhile, is an up-and-coming prospect who the team thinks very highly of, but he has only six games of NHL experience.

If this roster remains as is, both of those players look slated for everyday roles and one of them is going to be in the top-four. That is a huge gamble for a team with its sights set on one more Stanley Cup before the championship window closes on this era for good.

Maybe the Caps could look to add to the left side of the defense in free agency or in a trade, but given how tight the cap situation is, whatever moves they make will have to be dollar in, dollar out, so the team would have to make a corresponding move to shed more salary.

Does this leave the door open for a Zdeno Chara re-signing? Will the team dump more salary to look for another blue line pick-up? Does MacLellan have enough confidence in the defense as is to gamble possibly this core's last shot at a Cup? Those are questions that will have to be answered in the coming weeks.

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