With openings on the blue line after offseason departures, the Washington Capitals have signed veteran defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka to a professional tryout agreement, the team announced Tuesday. The Capitals aren’t committed to Jokipakka beyond training camp, so it’s a no-risk addition to the team’s competition to join the defense corps.
Jokipakka has played in 150 career NHL games, most recently in Calgary and Ottawa last season, where he appeared in 41 games and averaged less than 15 minutes per game. Drafted in the seventh round in 2011, the 26-year-old Finnish left-handed shot has scored three goals and 25 assists in his career while playing for three teams. If things work out with Jokipakka and the Capitals, both sides could parlay the tryout agreement into a contract with the team.
Washington allowed the fewest goals per game in the league last season, thanks in large part to continuity on its blue line, which returned all seven defensemen from the year before. But salary-cap constraints and the expansion draft took a toll on that unit this summer. Nate Schmidt, who was projected to play on the left side in the top four, was selected by Las Vegas and then Karl Alzner, a left-shot blue-liner who didn’t miss a game for Washington in seven seasons, departed for Montreal in free agency.
The Capitals have said that their prospects will have opportunities to step into those vacated roles, including a top-four role alongside defenseman John Carlson. Christian Djoos is considered a favorite to make the team after the 23-year-old scored 13 goals and 45 assists in the American Hockey League last season, but there’s some concern over how his 6-foot, 168-pound frame will hold up through the rigors of the NHL. Aaron Ness, Madison Bowey, Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler, Tyler Lewington and Connor Hobbs are also expected to contend for a spot with the Capitals, and adding Jokipakka could heat up the competition even more.
The first day of on-ice activity at training camp is Sept. 15, and Washington’s rookies are scheduled to play this weekend in a four-team tournament in Estero, Fla. But the team is monitoring the situation with Hurricane Irma potentially headed for Florida, and a spokesman said there will be a final decision on the Capitals’ participation in the tournament Wednesday.
More on the Capitals: