Wednesday morning, Washington Capitals locked down another pending restricted free agent, re-signing defenseman Nate Schmidt to a two-year, one-way deal worth $750,000 next season and $875,000 in 2016-17, the team announced.
As with goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who inked a contract of equal length Tuesday, the Capitals handed a relatively unproven NHL commodity a raise from his potential qualifying offer and provided one-way security to a 23-year-old, but kept the annual cost below $1 million for a cap-crunched club.
A former undrafted free agent from the University of Minnesota, Schmidt has logged 68 games with the Capitals, all over the past two seasons. He spent a decent chunk of the first half of 2014-15 starting on the third pair beside Mike Green before Coach Barry Trotz removed him from the lineup, citing inconsistency issues. Washington later sent Schmidt on a confidence-finding assignment to Hershey, where the left-handed shot promptly notched three points in his first game and fractured his collarbone in the second.
Schmidt eventually recovered from the injury and notched his only NHL goal of the season on March 15 against Boston, logging six games in March before returning to the AHL for the Bears’ playoff run. The Capitals twice recalled him on an emergency basis during the postseason, insurance for Tim Gleason, but Schmidt never played.
The annual cap hit of $812,500 represents a solid bump for Schmidt from his $687,500 qualifying offer, which per the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement would have also been a two-way deal. The one-way deal all but ensures Schmidt will spend next season in Washington full-time, likely on the third pairing with Dmitry Orlov.
The Capitals are not expected to re-sign unrestricted free agent Mike Green, and now have six defensemen on their projected NHL roster: Orlov, Schmidt, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen. General Manager Brian MacLellan has said the team might look to add a more rugged No. 7 blue-liner to complement the more skilled Orlov and Schmidt on the bottom of the depth chart.
Schmidt will be available on a teleconference later Wednesday afternoon. More then.