Barry Trotz went to bat for his new general manager and one of his newest players on Monday when he said Brian MacLellan did what he had to do to get defenseman Brooks Orpik in a Capitals uniform.
“I know Mac’s taken some heat for that,” Trotz said of MacLellan giving Orpik a five-year contract with an average cap hit of $5.5 million.
“Everyone says Orpik doesn’t have great points, so why are you paying him that? The things Orpik does you can’t put a value on. There hasn’t been a physical, net-front type of defenseman [in Washington].”
Not since guys like Brendan Witt, Mark Tinordi and Scott Stevens patrolled the blue line have the Capitals had the kind of snarl that Orpik is expected to provide and Trotz said that is an invaluable asset.
“Who does Alexander Ovechkin play against?” Trotz said. “He’s one of the strongest, most dangerous players in the league and he plays against Brooks Orpik all the time and you need those players. Brooks is also a great role model for a team that’s really young.”
With Ovechkin, 28, Mike Green, 28, and Nicklas Backstrom, 26, as their core, Trotz said the Capitals made a conscious effort of trying to cash in on the opportunity in front of them by signing Orpik and Matt Niskanen [seven years, $42.025 million].
“Were not an old team,” Trotz said. “We’re probably in that window of just entering the prime of their careers and [Orpik] is a really good complement and a role model and he’s a piece we [didn’t] have. To me, it’s a commitment of ownership and the team saying, ‘You know what? We’re in a good window here. Let’s get the players we want, not the players we’ve got to settle for.’
“We got [Orpik] because he can have an effect. And the effect is not going to be in goals and assists. It’s going to be in culture and winning and attitude and that’s what Brooks Orpik does.”
It remains to be seen whether the Caps make a move to thin out their blue line, where there are now eight players with more than 100 games of NHL experience. But in John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Orpik, Niskanen, Green, Dmitry Orlov, Jack Hillen and John Erskine, Trotz has some enticing option.
“I get a lot of messages from my counterparts saying, ‘Now you’ve got five really good defensemen and you can do a lot of things, especially when you connect that back end with those forwards. The hockey people have given me real positive messages.
“Mac went out and addressed real needs without giving up anything in terms of assets.”