With a backup goaltender [Justin Peters] off their checklist, the Capitals opened their wallets and signed former Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik to a hefty five-year, $27.5 million contract.
Orpik, 33, was targeted early by the Capitals and that interest was heightened when Todd Reirden was added to the team’s coaching staff last week.
Orpik carries a cap hit of $5.5 million, a nice increase on the $3.75 million he earned in each of his last six seasons in Pittsburgh. His signing, along with Peters’ $950,000 cap hit, leaves the Caps with $6.2 million in cap space.
The Caps are also believed to be in negotiations with former Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen, whose value keeps rising with every signing.
“Matt Niskanen negotiation is hectic and a decision will be forthcoming later today after full consideration of offers,” Niskanne’s agent, Neil Sheehy said in a tweet.
Capitals general manager Brian McLellan called Orpik as a leader who can fortify the Caps’ blue line.
“We are very excited to welcome Brooks to Washington,” said MacLellan. “We feel Brooks’ leadership and experience will greatly enhance our defense for years to come. Brooks plays tough minutes against the opposition’s best players.”
Orpik ranks first among defensemen in Pittsburgh franchise history in games played (703), fifth in penalty minutes (734) and ninth in assists (119). The 6-foot-2 219-pound defenseman has registered 132 points (13 goals, 119 assists) and 734 penalty minutes in 703 career NHL games. He has served as an alternate captain for the team since 2008, was named the Penguins’ Defensive Player of the Year three times (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12) and won the Player’s Player Award four times (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14), given to the player that exemplifies leadership on and off ice and is dedicated to teamwork.
Orpik played in 72 games for the Penguins in 2013-14, earning 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) and 46 penalty minutes and ranked first on the team in blocked shots (143) and first among Pittsburgh defensemen in hits (221). Orpik was drafted by the Penguins in the first round, 18th overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
The San Francisco native has represented the United States at the Winter Olympics twice (2010, 2014), the World Championships once (2006) and the World Junior Championships once (2000). Orpik earned a silver medal with Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. He played three seasons at BostonCollege from 1998-01 and helped the Eagles win the NCAA Division I National Championship in 2001.