One year ago Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt was just the seventh defenseman on a deep Washington Capitals team. Flash forward a year and he’s playing top pairing minutes for one of the best teams in hockey… oh and he’s set to face off against his old teammates in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight in Vegas. What a year. What a crazy year.
The thing is… things weren’t supposed to play out this way. Vegas general manager George McPhee, who originally scouted and signed Schmidt himself during his tenure as the Capitals’ long-time GM, showed no hesitation in selecting the 26 year old blue liner during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. According to a report from The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan then reached out to McPhee to see if they could come to terms on a deal for Schmidt’s return. No dice:
Asked McPhee about how it went down with getting Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft. He said Brian MacLellan reached out after Schmidt was selected to see if they could make a deal to get him back. McPhee says they really liked Schmidt so they asked a high price of the Caps...
In the end, no trade was ever close. Vegas was happy to keep Schmidt, the guy they wanted
Smart move by McPhee and the Golden Knights.
Schmidt broke out in a big way with Vegas this seaon, scoring a career high five goals and 36 points in 76 games. This following a 17 point campaign in 2016-17 with the Capitals. Together with former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb, Schmidt has comprised a solid top pairing for the Golden Knights this season, surprising almost everyone in the hockey world. Given his production this season, it’s hard to believe that Schmidt had a difficult time earning ice time over the likes of Brooks Orpik and Karl Alzner for the Capitals last season. But, as is often the case with hockey, sometimes all you need is an opportunity. For Schmidt, his old boss McPhee provided the opportunity, he’s now just taking advantage of it.
Puck drop fro Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between Schmidt’s new team and his old team is 5pm tonight local time, 8pm ET.