Last spring, defenseman Roman Hamrlik logged big minutes against the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather must have taken notice because on Wednesday, one day after losing defenseman Marc Staal indefinitely with an eye injury, the Rangers claimed the 38-year-old defenseman off NHL waivers.
The Rangers will absorb all of Hamrlik’s prorated $3.5 million salary. He becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Hamrlik is expected to make his Rangers debut on Thursday against the Islanders and could be in the lineup on Sunday when the Rangers visit the Capitals at Verizon Center.
Hamrlik was a healthy scratch in 16 of the Capitals’ first 20 games and had fallen to eighth on the club’s healthy depth chart, behind defensemen Karl Alzner, Tomas Kundratek, John Erskine, John Carlson, Tom Poti, Steve Oleksy and Jeff Schultz.
In four games with the Caps this season, Hamrlik managed one assist and was a minus-1.
Although it may be overlooked outside the dressing room, Hamrlik played a strong role in the development of Kundratek, a 23-year-old rookie who also hails from the Czech Republic. The two shared locker stalls side by side.
“Roman’s awesome,” Kundratek said last week. “He’s a great player. He has already 20 years in this league. He has a lot of experience and he’s an unbelievable guy. On the ice or off the ice we talk a lot and he’s a great guy.”
Hamrlik’s 1,383 NHL games are tops among Czech-born players.
At 6-foot-2, 206 pounds Hamrlik is still a strong, steady presence on the blue line and can be effective if paired with a puck-moving defense partner.In 68 games last season Hamrlik averaged 19:13 in ice time with two goals and 11 assists and 149 blocks. He played in all 14 playoff games for the Caps, he averaged 22:17 per game on a top pairing with Mike Green and recorded one goal, three assists, a plus-eight rating, 20 hits and 37 blocks.