When Capitals general manager George McPhee took Eric Fehr with the 18th pick overall of the 2003 NHL draft, he envisioned a top-line power forward capable of scoring 40 to 50 goals in the NHL.
For two years with the Brandon Wheat Kings, that’s exactly what Fehr did, scoring 109 goals in his first two seasons after getting drafted.
Since then, Fehr has scored just 48 goals over parts of seven NHL seasons that have been hampered by injuries.
On Sunday, at the advice of one of a Capitals pro scout who saw Fehr playing in Finaland, McPhee re-signed the 27-year-old right wing to a one-year contract worth $600,000.
“He told me if we don’t sign him, someone else will,” McPhee said. “He’s always been a goal scorer and he’s been set back by injuries. Hopefully, this is a year where he can score goals.”
After eight years in the Caps organization, Fehr was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 for a fourth rounder and prospect Danick Paquette. Fehr, who is from nearby Winkler, Manitoba, said it was exciting to play in front of family and friends. But when he tried coming back too early from October shoulder surgery, his only season in Winnipeg became a bad dream.
“I came back before I should have and after that it spiraled out of control,” Fehr said Sunday after his first practice with the Capitals. “In hindsight I would have loved to have waited longer and felt better. But I was playing in my hometown, the team wasn’t winning and I wanted to help out and it didn’t work out.”
Fehr managed just two goals in 35 games and was cut loose by the Jets at the end of the season. During the NHL lockout he signed to play with HPK in the Finnish League and scored 13 goals and was a plus-13 in 21 games. That was enough to convince the Capitals to give him another try.
“The lockout definitely helped me,” Fehr said. “Not just to get my strength back, but to get my confidence back.”
On Sunday Fehr alternated with newcomer Joey Crabb on a fourth line with center Mathieu Perreault and left wing Matt Hendricks.
As for other moves to strengthen his roster, McPhee said he’s not closing the door on making another minor move.
“I don’t anticipate a lot right now,” he said. “I’m just starting to hear back from GMs, but I don’t forsee anything major going on.”