Updated 5:40 p.m.: The Capitals placed seldom-used veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik on waivers Tuesday afternoon.
Hamrlik, 38, had been a healthy scratch in 16 of the Capitals’ 20 games this season, and there was no indication that he was going to enter the lineup again any time soon. He is in the final year of a two-year contract with a salary cap hit of $3.5 million.
If Hamrlik were to be claimed off of waivers, that new team would be responsible for the rest of his salary and his full salary cap hit. At this stage, it’s unclear whether any team would take a chance on him but the Capitals decided to waive Hamrlik in order to give him the opportunity to play somewhere.
“Like anybody he’s upset, and that’s the professionalism in him,” Coach Adam Oates said. “We’re trying to do the right thing, and depending on what happens, nothing might change. He might be here tomorrow. And if he goes somewhere, good for him. Good luck.”
Oates said if Hamrlik clears waivers the Capitals intend to keep him in Washington and won’t assign him to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. If they would send him to the AHL the salary cap benefit would be negligible as Washington would still carry a $3.4 million salary cap hit from his contract because he is in the second year of a deal he signed after turning 35.
“He’s a big boy, he’ll get his chance,” Oates said when asked about Hamrlik’s prolonged absence from the lineup on Feb. 4. But he never got that opportunity. Hamrlik played in one game, Feb. 7 at Pittsburgh, after Oates’s comment.
“There really hasn’t been one. And in fairness, what I told him is: you have a bad night, everybody has a bad night. And I wouldn’t evaluate him on one bad night because that’s not fair to anybody,” Oates said. “But since the last few weeks we’ve played much better hockey, so you can’t take a guy out of the lineup for one game. And he just hasn’t had his chance and we haven’t had injuries back there that he’s got his opportunity. It’s been a long time and give him a chance to play. He’s been professional.”
Oates said it became tough to find Hamrlik an opportunity to get in the lineup, citing Tom Poti’s unexpected return after missing two years with injuries and Tomas Kundratek’s emergence as a regular in the lineup as giving the first-year coach an abundance of defensemen at his disposal.
Steve Oleksy became the latest to leapfrog Hamrlik on the depth chart when he was signed and recalled by the Capitals on Monday largely because he’s a right-handed shot while Hamrlik is a lefty. The 27-year-old will make his NHL debut against the Bruins.
“He’s been great. It’s not an easy situation. He got caught a little bit in terms of we all struggled early,” Oates said. “He still feels he can play, and he can play. It’s been a numbers game here, and that’s all it is.”
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