When the Washington Capitals recalled Dmitry Orlov from the Hershey Bears early on November 30 there were likely many people who felt a bit of deja vu, and for good reason. This is because it was the sixth time within the last month that the team has recalled the defenseman, although they have yet to actually feature him in even a single game at the NHL level in 2013-14 season.
The reasoning for this constant maneuvering is that Orlov has a clause in his contract stipulating that he must spend 30 days on the Capitals roster prior to January 1,2014 or he will become eligible to return to the KHL. After watching Ilya Kovaluchuk, amongst others, move to the KHL in recent seasons it is obvious why Washington would want to avoid the possibility of this move as the defenseman may not ever end up coming back to the NHL.
What has also become obvious is that the player is becoming increasingly frustrated with the blatant contract manipulation, and within the past week he has asked the organization for a trade in order to receive playing time at the NHL level. But for a Capitals team that ranks 22nd in the NHL at 2.8 goals allowed per game and 14th in killing penalties at a 83.2 percent efficiency rate, it would appear that Orlov’s services are needed, and in a bad way.
Just within the first 26 games of the season the team has featured a merry-go-round of guys that includes Alexander Urbom, Steve Oleksy, Connor Carrick, and Tyson Strachan. Suffice to say none of these guys has any long-term future with either Washington or any NHL team as a top player, while Orlov definitely does.
The 22 year old has been touted as a future top-four defenseman since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and after playing 60 games for the Capitals during the 2011-12 season it appeared he had already found this role. Throughout this breakout season he showed an ability to move the puck up the ice to great effect as well as provide the physical presence and hitting ability that is necessary to succeed at the NHL level.
Unfortunately the departure of Dale Hunter as head coach and two concussions during the 2012-13 season left him with a lost season, but 2013-14 has been a return to form for Orlov. Thus far in 11 games for Hershey he has contributed three goals and six assists, in turn showing an ability that far outshines that of his peers at the AHL level and warrants a chance to shine with the Capitals.
The onus is on Capitals head coach Adam Oates to give Orlov this chance to show what he can bring to the table, in a move that seems to be low-risk, high-reward. At the very least the defender will provide cover for the undoubted top-four of Mike Green, Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Nate Schmidt all the while providing a boost in morale that will negate any thoughts of wanting to be traded.