Yesterday, the Dallas Stars signed the Capitals captain Jeff Halpern to a four year contract worth around $2 million a year. My mom (even more rabid a Caps fan than I am if you can believe it) thought this was a mistake, but I’m not so sure. As reported by the Washington Post, the Caps are stocked w/ checking-line forwards. They apparently offered Halpern $1.5 million a year for two years. Sure, Halpern is a fan favorite – he grew up a Caps fan in Maryland – but $8 million seems like a lot to tie up in a checking forward / face-off specialist.
In the “old” NHL, you often saw teams throw crazy money (typically the same teams every year) at marginal players, hoping they would be the last puzzle piece to put them over the top and help them win the cup. Now with the salary cap, I think it’s going to shift from dollars to contract length – plus all teams will have a chance to be involved, not just the same five teams year after year. Players want longer contracts and teams want shorter contracts (go figure). A team in the Stars’ position – Dallas won their division last year but were bounced from the playoffs by the Avalanche – is more willing to tie up long term money for short term gain than a team that’s rebuilding as the Caps are.
So while I’m sad to see Halpern go, I think it’s a good move in the long term for the Caps. As much as I’d like the Caps to be competitive next year, I’ll believe it when I see it.