Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz
After absorbing an eight-game losing streak in December and seeing their offense repeatedly not click, Bruce Boudreau and George McPhee decided that the time had finally come to change the team’s run ‘n’ gun style to a more defense-first system. During the year, the Capitals traded top six forward Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for veteran Scott Hannan and also picked up Dennis Wideman at the trade deadline. The results were stunning.
After finishing 16th in the league in 2009-10 with a goals allowed per game of 2.67, the Capitals finished in the top five in 2010-11, with 2.33. Washington also had the third best penalty kill in the league last year, improving almost six percent from the year before. However, the Caps still flamed out early on in the playoffs, being swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I felt we needed to add a defenseman last year in the summer and we didn’t do it,” McPhee said Friday. “We made the trade the during the year, but it’s a hard process to go through.”
So in response, McPhee signed 37-year old defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who played the last four seasons in Montreal, to a two year, seven million dollar deal.
“It’s an honor to play for the Washington Capitals,” Hamrlik told reporters Saturday. “I think I can bring some experience and I can still move the puck, and I can play probably play around 20, 22 good, quality minutes I can bring to the team, for sure.”
Hamrlik, a veteran of 19 NHL seasons, may be paired with star defenseman Mike Green and possibly fill the role as mentor to the 25 year-old, who he referred to as “one of the best defenseman in the league.”
“When we played against you guys, he’s got lots of speed, great hands, he can shoot the puck,” Hamrlik said. “Hopefully he can learn something from me. For me playing with those young guys, superstars like that, it’s something I can learn from them too.”
And while the Caps have added a seasoned D-man in Hamrlik, the signing likely spells the end of another in Hannan, who’s terms were probably too high for Washington in the salary cap world. It also probably means the Capitals believe Tom Poti will not be able to come back from the chronic groin injury that has derailed his career.
But for Hamrlik, signing with Washington is one last chance to win the ultimate prize.
“That’s my goal. I think I’m getting to that age when I’m 37 and I was choosing Capitals for hopefully go deep in the playoffs and win the Cup one day and you know, I’ve been in the league for a long time and I have experience and I think I can still play,” he said. “It’s been a great run. I think age doesn’t really matter if you can keep fighting with the young guys.”
Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.