The Washington Capitals signed veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to a five-year, $27.5 million contract Tuesday.
Orpik has spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, appearing in 703 games. The 33-year-old stay-at-home defenseman, who turns 34 in September, is a two-time Olympian and will be reunited with assistant coach Todd Reirden. The Capitals hired Reirden last week after he was fired by the Penguins.
“I think he’s player that, looking at the Capitals present roster, I think he’d be a guy, left-hand shot, more of a stay-at-home guy that plays against the other team’s top players,” Reirden said of Orpik on Monday. “I think I pride myself in my ability to form relationships with the players where I can challenge them and continue to force them to improve. Brooks is a guy that, prior to us working together, started at just over 18 minutes and now is capped out at his average of 22 minutes and he plays the toughest players, night in and night out.
“He’s been a part of the top penalty-killing unit and he’s been the best penalty killer the past three years, four years that I’ve been involved in Pittsburgh. I think he brings that ability. I think a situation where he saw a lot of [Capitals forward Alex] Ovechkin in our matchups, when we came into this building or Washington was playing us in Pittsburgh. It’s a guy that can handle that. His maturity, he’s won [a] Stanley Cup, he’s been a part of [a] good defensive team and his leadership I think would be a great fit for any team."
The signing, for lack of a better descriptor, is curious. Orpik, whose annual salary-cap charge increased from $3.75 million on his last contract in Pittsburgh to $5.5 million in Washington, does not drive possession and has seen his average ice time diminish from 22:33 in 2011-12 to 22:17 in 2012-13 and 21:12 last season.
There is no doubt that Washington was in need of a steadying defensive presence, especially after using a league-high 14 defensemen last season. Yet it seems unlikely that Orpik will live up to the contract.
After signing goaltender Justin Peters to a two-year, $1.9 million contract earlier Tuesday afternoon, the Capitals have roughly $6.2 million in available space.
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