Free agent Hershey forward Matt Watkins headed to Austria

Matt Watkins, shown here with the Coyotes during his only NHL appearance, has signed in Austria. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
Matt Watkins, shown here with the Coyotes during his only NHL appearance, has signed in Austria. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Forward Matt Watkins, one of 10 “Group 3″ unrestricted free agents for the Capitals, is headed to Austria after signing a one-year deal with, fittingly enough, the Vienna Capitals.

“Exactly the type of player we have been looking for,” first-year coach Tom Pokel said, according to a Google translation of the team’s release.

In North America, Watkins leaves behind three straight seasons of one-year, two-way deals in the AHL, most recently with the Hershey Bears. Signed last offseason, the 27-year-old right winger had 27 points over 73 games. He has also played for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (30 points in 68 games), Portland Pirates (36 points in 70 games) and San Antonio Rampage (57 points in 115 games) in the AHL, but has appeared just once in the NHL, for eight shifts on Feb. 21, 2012, for the Coyotes.

The Vienna Capitals compete in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, Austria’s top hockey league. The team has won just one league title, in 2005.

Watkins, a native of Regina, Canada, was classified as a “Group 3″ unrestricted free agent, meaning he had either reached the age of 27 (he did, last November) or had accumulated seven years of NHL experience, per the latest collective bargaining agreement. Of Washington’s 10 Group 3 UFAs, exactly half six have now inked deals. Here’s the full list, culled from a previous post on free agency:

Group 3 UFAs: Julien Brouillette (unsigned), Chay Genoway (unsigned) Mikhail Grabovski (signed with NY Islanders), David Leggio (signed with NY Islanders), Dustin Penner (unsigned), Joel Rechlicz (signed with Minnesota Wild), Brandon Segal (unsigned Medvescak KHL) Ryan Stoa (unsigned), Tyson Strachan (signed with Buffalo Sabres), Matt Watkins (Vienna Capitals).

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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