Of the roughly half a billion dollars dispensed by NHL teams to free agents on July 1, the five-year, $27.5 million contract the Capitals offered Brooks Orpik attracted the most skepticism.
The deal was widely panned by pundits who believe the veteran defenseman, who turns 34 in September, can never live up to it. They point to his dwindling ice time and poor possession statistics in recent seasons.
“Whether you make the minimum or $9 million a year, there’s always going to be people that think you’re overpaid,” Orpik said in a phone interview Tuesday. “You’re always aware of that. Washington, I think they know me well enough, so they know what they’re getting.”
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan says the team is getting a steadying presence on a blue line that was unstable last season. Washington dressed 14 different defensemen, tied for the most in the NHL.
Coach Barry Trotz has praised the former Penguin’s intangibles.
“The things that Brooks Orpik does,” Trotz said earlier this summer, “you can’t put a value on.”
Among others, the Capitals will rely on the Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympian to return them to contender status after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This summer, Washington reinforced its defensive corps, which includes another former Penguin in Matt Niskanen.
As training camp approaches next month, Orpik is focused on maintaining consistency.
“There are a lot of younger guys that contracts are given out for potential. I think I’m beyond that phase,” Orpik said. “I don’t think Washington expects me to all of a sudden be a completely different player. I think they’re giving me the contract … just to continue to be what I’ve been.”
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