Eakin, 20, was a healthy scratch against the Colorado Avalanche and in the four previous games never saw more than 9 minutes and 33 seconds in a single contest and played as little as 5:50 against Toronto on Dec. 9. Coach Dale Hunter said Washington wants to see the young forward get more playing time, and that will happen with the Bears.
“He’s a young player; the more games he gets at this level and the other level it will help his game,” Hunter said. “He’s going to be a good NHL player, he’s just a young guy again the more ice he gets it will speed up his [progress].”
In 19 games with the Capitals this season, Eakin has three goals, three assists and is a plus-2. More important than the numbers, though, is the experience Eakin gained from being in Washington for a regular basis.
“He’ll be back up and it’s one of those things, the more games he plays, it will help,” Hunter said. “You know what it takes to play by not playing them, you don’t know. Now he knows what it takes.”
Sending Eakin to Hershey occurred before the NHL’s holiday roster freeze kicks in at midnight tonight. The roster freeze lasts until midnight on Dec. 27 and it prohibits players from being traded. Players can still be recalled by NHL teams, though, and can be sent through re-entry waivers if necessary. Teams generally cannot loan players to the AHL during the freeze but there are some exceptions where that is permissible.
While Eakin’s departure brings the number of healthy forwards on the Capitals’ roster down to 12, Hunter said he’s not worried about not having an extra forward in the room because Hershey’s proximity allows them to recall someone quickly.
With Eakin reassigned to the Bears, that leaves the Capitals with 22 players on their active roster including Mike Green, who has missed the past 17 games with a strained right groin muscle. They also have just over $600,000 in space created by Tom Poti being on the long-term injury list. Jay Beagle, who is out with a concussion, is on injured reserve and does not take up an active roster spot but the team does not get any relief under the salary cap for his salary.