What should the Capitals do with Axel Jonsson-Fjallby?


What do you do when you like a player, but can’t risk playing him again? That’s the situation the Capitals find themselves in with forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby who was reassigned to the Hershey Bears on Friday.

Jonssson-Fjallby, 23, has been impressive in his limited action this season. Unlike some of the other rookie forwards, he has not been given sheltered minutes, but used largely in defensive roles and has thrived. His best asset (other than his hair) is clearly his speed, but he is careful not to rely too much on it or let it carry him out of position.

"I'm trying to use my speed when I should and not just skate around, but that's my No. 1 asset so I'm trying to use that," Jonsson-Fjallby said.

"He's played well [with the Hershey Bears], he's played well when he's been up here," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "He brings speed to the lineup and he's somebody that we've wanted to take a look at."

But despite his play, opportunities have been somewhat limited for Jonsson-Fjallby. Even with players constantly coming in and out of the lineup this season, he has played just nine games for the Caps while other rookies like Connor McMichael has played in 38, Brett Leason and Aliaksei Protas in 29 and Beck Malenstyn in 12.

And, even with his impressive play, Jonsson-Fjallby will almost certainly remain at nine games for the rest of the season, barring some drastic changes to the Caps roster.

While Jonsson-Fjallby is still a prospect, he is no longer waiver exempt. He was actually claimed off waivers by the Buffalo Sabres in the preseason, but he was reclaimed by Washington when the Sabres placed him back on waivers.

This is where the waiver rules can get a little complicated.

Because he was reclaimed by his original team, that technically counted as him clearing waivers and allowed for the Caps to reassign him to the AHL. Players who have cleared waivers do not have to clear again until they have been on the active NHL roster for a cumulative 30 days or have played in 10 NHL games.

Thursday’s game in Boston was game No. 9 this season for Jonsson-Fjallby. One more and he will once again have to clear waivers in order to be reassigned to Hershey.

When asked if he was thinking about his waiver status, Jonsson-Fjallby said, "Yeah, a little bit, sure. But not really. Just hoping to be out there."

Fans of every team have a tendency to believe all of their players are going to get claimed off waivers and that it will be a total disaster. In truth, few players ever get claimed. In this case, however, Jonsson-Fjallby was already claimed once and has been nothing but impressive in his time this season. There is a very strong possibility that if the Caps place him on waivers again, someone is going to claim him.

That means Washington has to choose between either not playing him at all for the rest of the regular season or playing him and committing to keeping him on the NHL roster.

Thursday's news that he had been reassigned to Hershey shows which option the team has chosen, at least for now.

"We always have to manage the roster and 23 men so we have to look at that," Laviolette said. "Guys are coming in and out of the lineup so it's who's available and who's not available."

Jonsson-Fjallby has been impressive and clearly has NHL speed, but you do not keep a prospect on the NHL roster if you do not plan to play him. It is better to send him back to Hershey where he can get regular playing time. Now that they have reached the limit of games he can play without having to clear waivers, we have likely seen the last of Jonsson-Fjallby in the regular season this year unless a spot were to suddenly open on the roster.

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