For the first nine hours of free agency, the Washington Capitals were silent. Before July 1 could come to a close, though, the Capitals added an energy player to the mix.
Washington signed right wing Joey Crabb to a one-year, one-way contract worth $950,000 late Sunday night, making this the sixth time in the past seven years the team has agreed to terms with at least one player on the opening day of free agency.
Crabb, 29, likely will slot into a bottom-six role for the Capitals and could see time on the penalty kill. General Manager George McPhee was not available to discuss the first day of free agency.
“When everybody’s happy and playing well he’ll likely be on the fourth line and killing penalties, but when the team is in search of different looks he’ll be able to step into many different roles,” Crabb’s agent, Kevin Epp, said in a phone interview. “As he proved in Toronto, he’s versatile and can move up and down the lineup — wherever he’s needed.”
The 2011-12 season was Crabb’s first full NHL campaign. The Alaska native appeared in 67 games with Toronto, recording 11 goals, 15 assists and 33 penalty minutes while averaging 13 minutes 2 seconds per contest, 1:34 of which came short-handed.
Epp said that Washington assistant general manager Brian MacLellan expressed interest in the former Maple Leaf early in the day and they ironed out a deal after the initial waves of signings took place.
“Washington was a good fit,” Epp said. “For Joey to have the opportunity to play on a championship-caliber team, that’s what was most important for him, and this was a good chance to do so.”
The Capitals’ move to sign Crabb followed the pattern of the day as most of the more than 50 players who received new contracts on the first day of free agency were role players rather than superstars.
Twenty-six of the league’s 30 teams signed at least one unrestricted free agent, but despite the number of teams involved, few signings made significant splashes as the top players available in this shallow group continue to weigh their options.
Winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter have been highly sought after as expected, but both are taking their time to consider offers, which have been reported as including a minimum 10-year term and upward of $80 million in salary.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Parise has narrowed his field of contenders and plans to make a decision on Monday. Meanwhile, Suter’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told the Associated Press that the blue-liner likely won’t make a “quick decision.” Given the level of interest in Parise and Suter, many teams are waiting to see where the prized players land before pursuing secondary choices — leaving many other free agents in limbo.
There were a few notable signings made on Sunday, though, beginning with a few top-six wingers. P.A. Parenteau, who received interest from the Capitals but never a formal offer, agreed to a four-year deal worth $16 million with the Colorado Avalanche while power forward Dustin Penner re-signed with the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on a one-year, $3.25 million contract.
Veteran winger Ray Whitney, 40, who recorded 77 points last season and no fewer than 55 since the lockout, heads to Dallas on a two-year, $9 million contract. Shut-down winger Brandon Prust will take his grit to Montreal, on a four-year $10 million deal. None of the players from Washington’s 2011-12 roster who became unrestricted free agents signed Sunday.