As the offseason begins, we’ll take a player-by-player look at the year that was for the Washington Capitals.
Contract status: $1.25 million in 2010-11, $1.5 million in 2011-12.
The year that was: By most accounts, John Erskine overachieved, and not simply because he posted career highs in goals (4), points (11) and tied his best mark in assists (7). Erskine was steady in his role on the Capitals’ defensive depth chart, particularly when injuries to other blueliners piled up, and as Coach Bruce Boudreau likes to say, he played within himself.
Erskine isn’t looking to get into footraces with opposing forwards, and when he was at his best, he didn’t put himself in situations where he had to. When he did, a scoring chance may have been going the other way.
He also balanced an ability to increase the Capitals’ physical presence on the back end – Erskine had 166 hits, 2.27 per game in the regular season, the most of any defenseman -- without taking himself out of the play on most occasions. But fundamentally, Erskine isn’t looked to serve a greater role than the roughly 14-15 minutes per game that he plays, either.
Looking ahead: Erskine’s strong start helped earn him a two-year contract extension worth $1.5 million per year starting next season, and he’ll be a familiar option to round out the top six.
Don’t be surprised if the Capitals look to restock the defensive cupboard. Aside from Dmitry Orlov, there aren’t many blueliners in the pipeline that are sure to get long looks at the NHL level – something that was apparent as injuries mounted late in the season.