Taylor Chorney had a routine to every offseason for the past five years: Wait for free agency to begin on July 1, find the best opportunity and then hope for the best. And when all of that was over, his seasons usually involved long bus rides in the minors instead of the chartered flights in the NHL.
It wasn’t close to glamorous, but Chorney kept signing one-year deals for five straight seasons. The defenseman won’t face the same anxiety this summer after the Washington Capitals re-signed him to a one-way, two-year contract extension. Chorney will make $775,000 next season and $825,000 in 2017-18.
“You’re always kind of chasing the dream,” Chorney said in a phone interview. “For guys like us, the dream is to be able to play in the NHL and to be able to establish yourself as a player. There was times I wondered if the opportunity would come again, but like in anything, when you start to think too far ahead like that, that’s kind of when you can lose some perspective.”
A few tough years have made a week like this especially rewarding for Chorney. He and his wife, Haley, are expecting their first child “any time now.” The couple doesn’t know if they’re having a boy or a girl, but being able to settle down is a welcome change.
“The timing of it all is huge,” Chorney said. “It makes it kind of that much more sweeter. Haley has been a trooper for the last few years, just kind of following me around. You don’t really know where you’re going to go, but she’s always kind of stuck by my side. I think it’s nice for both of us to be able to stick in the same place and build some relationships. You can kind of just enjoy the experience.”
Chorney was an under-the-radar offseason signing, catching the eye of Washington scouts when he was pressed into postseason duty for an injured Pittsburgh Penguins defense. The team’s seventh defenseman, he signed the first one-way contract of his career, for $700,000, and when injuries hit the blue line, most notably with Brooks Orpik missing 40 games because of a lower-body bone injury, Chorney proved he was more than capable at playing every day at an NHL level.
The 28-year-old has five assists in 45 games, playing on the team’s third pair. He set career highs in games played, assists, points and plus/minus (plus-11) this season and has been plus or even in 34 of 45 games.
Locking up Chorney for two more seasons means that if Washington were to make a move at the trade deadline for a depth defenseman, it would most likely be a rental, a player that’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Chorney’s extension would have the Capitals returning its same seven defensemen next season, as Dmitry Orlov is a restricted free agent. With Orpik activated off long-term injured reserve, the team has $1.15 million in annual cap hit to work with at the trade deadline on Feb. 29.
With Orpik back in the lineup, Chorney has been a healthy scratch for two games, which Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said was a difficult decision, a compliment to how well Chorney played in Orpik’s absence.
Chorney knows his role with Washington means he won’t always be in the lineup, but rather than test the free agent waters and land on a team where he could have probably had a greater role, he wanted to stay with the Capitals.
“You enjoy playing on good teams,” Chorney said. “I think that’s probably why. When you play on a good team like this, you don’t really have to do anything too exceptional. You have opportunity to just go play your game and kind of fit in within the team system. For all of us, I think that’s when you enjoy playing the most.
“For a couple more years, it gives me the opportunity to establish myself, too. To be able to do it on a team like this with the players we have, I just think that overall it’s a really good fit.”