Devante Smith-Pelly opened up for the first time Saturday about his demotion from the Stanley Cup champion Capitals earlier this week, saying it was a surprising move.
“I was surprised. I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” Smith-Pelly told The Athletic. “But around trade deadline time you kind of think something is going to happen. Right now, it is what it is. I’m just going to come down here and play and get my stuff together and try and get back there.”
The Capitals waived Smith-Pelly on Wednesday, not long after reports indicated Washington wanted to place Dmitrij Jaskin on waivers. Coach Todd Reirden said the team changed its mind and wanted to let Smith-Pelly go, instead.
What came as an even bigger surprise to Smith-Pelly was the fact that he went unclaimed by the rest of the NHL. He cleared waivers, which allowed the Capitals to send him to their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
Smith-Pelly, who has scored four goals and eight points through 54 games this season, explained that while going unclaimed was disappointing, it gave him the opportunity to stay near the Capitals.
“At the same time, I want to stay with Washington. It was surprising, but I’m happy to still be around here,” he said.
“Hopefully, coming down here and maybe playing in a higher role in the lineup, maybe that will get (my confidence) going. But like I said, I’m just trying to play hard and trying to get back to doing what I know how to do.”
Smith-Pelly, 26, re-signed with the Capitals in July on a one-year, $1 million deal after he helped Washington win the Stanley Cup. But to add more to the disappointment, Smith-Pelly had offers for two years and more money from other teams that he turned down to stay with Washington.
“They obviously know what I can do, so just play hard here and see what happens and if they need me, I’ll be ready,” Smith-Pelly said.