Roman Hamrlik joked that he hadn’t seen as much media for a mid-summer meeting since he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 1992 when he met with reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday while in town to house hunt.
The veteran defenseman signed a two-year, $7 million deal on July 1. At 37, he’ll be the second oldest player on the Capitals’ roster, behind only Mike Knuble (39), and he is at least three years older than every other blueliner.
“I think I still have a few years left to play good hockey,” Hamrlik said, “and this is good opportunity to play for good team and hopefully make some damage in the playoffs and win the Cup.
Hamrlik’s age and experience is part of the reason he was brought to Washington with the hope that he can be a steadying presence for some of the younger defensemen.
“I think when you’re young, you just play — you don’t think about it, you just work hard,” Hamrlik said when asked about when he became more active as a leader. “Four, five years ago when I signed with Calgary and Montreal you’re at that age when you kind of figure it out and you try to win as a team.”
Hamrlik, who has spent time playing with younger defensemen Dion Phaneuf and P.K. Subban, said he hoped he would have the opportunity to play with Mike Green, as both General Manager George McPhee and Coach Bruce Boudreau have suggested may happen. Last year in Montreal, Hamrlik was paired with both defensemen willing to jump up in the play (James Wisniewski) and more stay-at-home types (Jaroslav Spacek) and he’s not worried about either role.
“I think hockey wise, I stay back and try to play better defense and I know P.K. or Mike, they can enjoy better offense and they have a chance to create something,” Hamrlik said. “It is a challenge [to play with someone that’s willing to be involved offensively] but it’s good to have somebody younger besides you because he’s faster, he can come back and help play defense, too.”
Hamrlik’s gear was hanging in the empty dressing room on Tuesday as well, and it looks like the Czech native will be wearing No. 44 for the Caps. In addition to Jeff Halpern, who was one of his teammates in Montreal last season, Hamrlik has played in front of goaltender Tomas Vokoun before with the Czech national team.
“He’s a good guy,” Hamrlik said of Vokoun. “He doesn’t have problems in the locker room with guys. He’s a hard-working guy and it’s nice to have him back and play with him…I’m sure he’s going to help.”