Jeff Halpern found out in early June that the Capitals didn’t intend to bring him back after a 2011-12 season that saw the veteran center scratched regularly down the stretch and in the playoffs. Despite the ending, there was no doubt in Halpern’s mind that he wanted to keep playing — it was simply a matter of finding a team.
“I have every intention of playing next year,” Halpern said in a phone interview last month. “I think at this stage I fill a certain role on a team and when teams are planning for a year, I think there will be a lot that can use what I’m able to do and how I play.”
This week, Halpern found his landing spot. The Potomac, Md., native has agreed to a one-year deal with the New York Rangers that’s believed to be worth $700,000. CSN Washington’s Larry Duvall first reported the deal.
Halpern, 36, recorded four goals and 12 assists in 69 games last season in his second stint with his hometown team and was also the Capitals’ best faceoff man (58.3 winning percentage).
As the season progressed, though, Jay Beagle absorbed many of the veteran’s roles on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle and Halpern became a regular presence in the press box. With the Rangers, Halpern will likely reprise his role as fourth-line center with key faceoff responsibilities and possibly see some time shorthanded.
Of the unrestricted free agents from Washington’s previous roster who hit the market on July 1, Halpern is the first to sign. Mike Knuble, Keith Aucoin and Alexander Semin, who is arguably the most skilled UFA forward still available and was looking to land a long-term contract this summer, are all still without teams for next season.