Defenseman Roman Hamrlik repeatedly referenced his longevity this afternoon during his first conference call with the media since signing a two-year, $7 million contract yesterday with the Capitals. At 37, he does stand out among youthful teammates along the blue line such as Karl Alzner, John Carlson and Mike Green, but with age comes a wealth of experience, and in Hamrlik’s case, that means 18 seasons in the NHL.
He’s still without a Stanley Cup, though, and that incentive made coming to Washington an easy decision, he said, considering the Capitals appear poised to make another run at it despite recent bouts of playoff disappointment.
“It’s a really good team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Hamrlik said. “The decision was clearly made. The money was not an issue. I’m not getting any younger. I really like that team. We played against [the Capitals] in the playoffs and always watch [the Capitals] play, and it’s an honor to play for the Washington Capitals.
“I think I can bring some experience, and I still can move the puck. I can play probably around, depends, 20 or 22 minutes [a game], good quality minutes I can bring to the team, for sure. . . . It’s been a good run for me. I think age doesn’t really matter. You still keep fighting with the young guys.”
Hamrlik spent the past four seasons with the Canadiens and was part of the No. 8 seed that dismissed Presidents’ Trophy winner Washington from the playoffs in seven games in the first round two seasons ago. That season Montreal advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost in five games to Philadelphia.
The Capitals, meantime, haven’t been that far since they made their first and only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in 1998.
“Yeah, that’s why I go,” Hamrlik said of Washington being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. “I’m getting at that age. I’m 37, and I was choosing the Capitals hoping to go deep in the playoffs and win the Cup one day. Like I said, I’ve in the league a long time, and I have experience, and I think I can still play.”
While Hamrlik, who signed a two-year deal with Washington, hasn’t had a season with double-figure goals since 2001-02, he has recorded at least 19 assists in each subsequent season. He’s also collected no fewer than 26 points in any of the past 13 seasons.
Hamrlik this past season finished with 34 points, his most in five years. He was second among Montreal defensemen in points, first in assists (29) and third in goals. He averaged 22 minutes 16 seconds of ice time per game, including 21:08 at even strength, the eighth most in the league and nearly two minutes more than Carlson, the top Capitals player on that list.
“It’s been a good run for me,” said Hamrlik, who is second among active defensemen in games played (1,311). “I think age doesn’t really matter. You still keep fighting with the young guys.”
Apart from his veteran leadership and playoff savvy, Hamrlik also has been durable despite his age. The Czech has played in at least 73 games in seven of the past eight seasons, and that stability GM George McPhee said was particularly attractive for Washington, which was shorthanded on defense throughout this year’s playoffs.
“Last couple years when I was playing with Montreal I was a little bit lucky,” Hamrlik said of the secret to his durability. “You can’t control those things, when you’re healthy or not. I was playing lots of minutes there because the last two years [Andrei] Markov was injured, a couple few [other] guys, and I had the stage and proved I can still play, and that helped me to maybe play another two years” with the Capitals.