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Capitals boost center depth by signing Dylan Strome to a one-year deal

Dylan Strome had 22 goals and 26 assists for Chicago last season. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

The Washington Capitals remained active on the second day of NHL free agency by signing forward Dylan Strome to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million, the team announced Thursday.

Strome had 48 points, including a career-high 22 goals, with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. The 25-year-old also averaged a career-high 17 minutes 26 seconds of ice time. He played center last season with Chicago, mostly on a line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, but also can skate on the wing. Strome was drafted No. 3 overall in 2015 by the Arizona Coyotes.

Strome joined the Capitals after Chicago decided not to issue him a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. He could be the Capitals’ second-line center in place of Nicklas Backstrom, who is recovering from hip resurfacing surgery and is expected to miss the start of the season. Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan said the 34-year-old plans to play this season.

Capitals sign goaltender Darcy Kuemper as NHL free agency begins

The addition of Strome pushes the Capitals about $6.3 million over the salary cap, per contract database, but with Backstrom and right wing Tom Wilson (torn ACL) in line to start the season on long-term injured reserve, Washington has some wiggle room. The complication would be how the Capitals get back under the cap when Backstrom and Wilson return to action.

“The salary cap is the salary cap,” MacLellan said Wednesday. “We have to plan for Nick coming back at some point. What we can do is give opportunities to our young [centers]. ... [Connor] McMichael, we hope he gets to the next step. [Hendrix] Lapierre, we’ll see where he’s at. [Aliaksei] Protas is coming in, and we expect him to take the next jump.”

Strome’s signing came a day after the Capitals addressed their most glaring need by inking goalie Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million contract. Kuemper, 32, helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in June after posting a 2.54 goals against average and a .921 save percentage in the regular season.

Washington also signed goalie Charlie Lindgren to a three-year, $3.3 million deal Wednesday — he’s slated to back up Kuemper — and acquired winger Connor Brown from the Ottawa Senators for a second-round draft pick in 2024.

Strome’s brother Ryan, a 29-year-old who spent the past four seasons with the New York Rangers, signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.