The Washington Capitals have acquired defenseman Mike Weber from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2017 NHL draft, the team announced Tuesday night. Buffalo has retained half of Weber’s remaining contract, making his cap hit roughly $833,333 pro-rated. Weber is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
“We are pleased to welcome Mike to our organization,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said in a statement. “Mike is a stay-at-home defenseman, who plays a physical game and is respected by his teammates. We felt it was important to add depth to our blueline by adding another quality veteran defenseman.”
The acquisition echoes what the Capitals have said both publicly and privately about their strategy entering the trade deadline. They wanted to add depth without blowing up the current roster that has cruised to 92 points through 58 games. With defenseman Taylor Chorney recently signed to a two-year contract extension, Washington is expected to bring back seven defenseman next season, so getting a pending free agent was important.
As a corresponding move for cap space, the Capitals placed center Jay Beagle to long-term injured reserve, but he can be activated at any time and is expected to play sometime in the next week. To activate Beagle and keep Weber on the NHL roster, Washington will have to move a relatively small amount of salary. Creating roster room won’t be an issue either; after the trade deadline on Feb. 29 at 3 p.m., the 23-man roster limit disappears.
Weber is likely an insurance piece for the Capitals, as their three defensive pairs appear set. His stay-at-home style is a contrast to that of young defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt, so depending on the matchup, the Capitals could alternate Weber for Orlov or Schmidt on the third defensive pairing. On Tuesday afternoon, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said the organization was “going to try to do something.”
“Probably more on the depth areas, and if we could find a specialist here or there,” Trotz said. “You always want to grab one of those guys that are specialist at whatever, be it a penalty killer or a face-off guy, whatever that may be. Something like that would be what you’re always looking for.”
Weber, 28, has recorded five points (one goal and four assists) in 35 games with the Sabres this season. Since he entered the NHL in 2007-08, Weber ranks first among Buffalo skaters in hits (917) and blocked shots (666). He was an alternate captain with the Sabres during the 2013-14 season and 2014-15 season. Weber registered 53 points (nine goals and 44 assists) in 341 career NHL games with Buffalo and was drafted by the Sabres in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft.
According to the Buffalo News, Weber joined his teammates on a flight to California. He and his wife are expecting their second child any second, and he nearly had to rush home from the Sabres’ previous trip after she had contractions.
“Obviously with the trade deadline a week away it’s always in the back of your mind, then you’ve got personal stuff in the back of your mind also,” Weber said. “It’s part of the business. It’s what we do. It’s what happens every year.
“I’ve said it before kind of as a joke, you’ll see a little bit bigger suitcases on the plane today, just in case.”
The addition of Weber gives the Capitals eight defensemen, and when Trotz was asked on Tuesday about carrying too many extra players, he said he wasn’t a fan of it.
“I just think that if you have too many extras, it slows your practice down,” he said. “It takes away from your group. I think most teams try to keep their corps to probably four lines, a couple extra forwards and an extra D.”