John Erskine

Capitals, Schmidt agree to two-year extension


The Washington Capitals announced that they have signed a two-year, $1,625,000 contract extension with defenseman Nate Schmidt.

Schmidt’s deal is one-way and will pay him $750,000 next season and $875,000 in 2016-17. That works out to be an annual cap hit of $812,500.

The 23-year-old defenseman was never drafted, but he excelled at the University of Minnesota. In 2012-13 he was part of the All-WCHA First Team after leading all defensemen with 41 points. He finished in a tie for third among NCAA blueliners in the scoring race in the subsequent campaign with 32 points in 40 contests.

He had a goal and four points in 39 contests in 2014-15 with Washington. He also recorded three goals and six assists in 19 AHL contests.

With Schmidt locked up, the Capitals now have six blueliners inked to one-way deals. Mike Green, John Erskine, and Tim Gleason are eligible to test the unrestricted free agent waters this summer.

Caps announce Fehr, a pending UFA, underwent successful elbow surgery

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Veteran forward Eric Fehr, who flourished in his role as Washington’s third-line center this season, has undergone successful elbow surgery, the club announced on Thursday.

Per a release, Fehr will be healthy for the start of next season “if rehabilitation goes well.”

Fehr, who missed 10 of Washington’s 14 playoff games with a shoulder injury, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. There does appear a mutual desire from both sides to have Fehr return to the Caps next season, especially after he scored 19 goals and 33 points this season while posting a career-high 14:51 TOI per night.

“Obviously, I have a lot of friends here and I’ve been here a lot of years,” Fehr told CSN Washington. “I think this is a special group. Obviously, I’d love to be back here, but looking at the amount of guys we have unsigned right now you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Fehr is one of seven Capitals scheduled to go UFA, along with Mike Green, Joel Ward, Jay Beagle, John Erskine, Curtis Glencross and Tim Gleason. GM Brian MacLellan also needs to strike new deals with important RFAs Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and goalie Braden Holtby.

Caps injury update: Green possible vs. Stars, Beagle doubtful, Orpik out


Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz updated the media on the laundry list of injuries currently plaguing his hockey club.

The good news is defenseman Mike Green, who suffered an upper body injury in the Caps 6-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on the weekend, is a possibility tonight when Washington hosts the Dallas Stars.

Green missed the Capitals 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

“I want to be able to play, play heavy, play strong, play firm,” Green told The Washington Post. “If I can’t, then waiting one more day there where I can makes more sense. Especially this time of the season.

“I just want to be ready for that. The injury I had last game, just needs a few days and we’ll be good.”

Forward Jay Beagle, who absorbed a hit from Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi on Wednesday is “very doubtful” for tonight’s game according to Trotz.

Alex Prewitt reports Beagle was favoring his left shoulder following the hit.

“I think he thought with the injury he’s got, it’d be better served to shut him down right now, or [Wednesday] night, I should say, then give him a better chance to come back quicker,” Trotz said. “At the end of the day, we always think about the player first. I don’t think it’ll be too long. It’s not something that’s weeks. It won’t be too long.”

Defenseman Brooks Orpik missed his first game of the season on Wednesday after aggravating a lower body injury during practice on Tuesday. Orpik did not practice on Thursday and is not expected to play tonight.

“I expect him to probably maybe possibly skate [Friday] on his own,” said Trotz. “That’s the last thing I’ve heard. I think that’s the plan, that he’ll probably skate tomorrow. He’s not going to play.”

Dmitry Orlov, who has not played this season while recovering from wrist surgery, is expected to finally get game action soon.

The 23-year-old will likely be sent to Hershey of the American Hockey League for a conditioning assignment.

“That’s something we’re talking about with Dmitry on a more regular basis than we have in the past,” he said. “I probably would say that you could expect something in the near future.”

John Erskine skated for the first time on Thursday following neck surgery in October. The defenseman skated on his own for roughly 30 minutes, but is still experiencing pain.

Forward Michael Latta (upper body) is questionable for tonight.

Caps put Erskine (neck surgery) on IR

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On Wednesday, Washington announced that veteran blueliner John Erskine has undergone corrective neck surgery and been placed on injured reserve.

Erskine, 34, hasn’t appeared in a game this season and recently underwent a procedure to repair a disc in his neck. The Caps said he’s scheduled to begin rehab over the next few weeks.

A big, physical defenseman that’s been with Washington for the last nine seasons, Erskine is in the last of a two-year, $3.925 million deal that carries an average annual cap hit of $1.96M. That’s important, because Washington is already operating very close to the salary cap ceiling with two players — Aaron Volpatti and Dmitry Orlov — on long-term injured reserve.

For now, Erskine is on regular IR but it’s possible he could be moved to LTIR at some point.

Hard-luck Hillen ‘100 percent’ after staph infection


The last two years have not been kind to Washington defenseman Jack Hillen.

He missed 60 games with a fractured tibial plateau and, upon returning to the lineup, suffered a concussion after colliding with Alex Ovechkin. Then, this summer, he complained of lingering knee pain that carried over from the end of the regular season — which turned out to be a staph infection, stemming from a plate screwed into his knee.

“I was on antibiotics for a month,” Hillen told the Washington Post. “Ever since I got that taken care of, I feel so much better … I’m 100 percent, ready to go. I feel strong, back to where I was before the injury. It gives me closure, because now I know why I was having pain when I came back and played, why I wasn’t feeling well.

“Now I feel like I’ve jumped back.”

It’ll be interesting to see where Hillen fits in Washington’s rotation this year. At 28, he’s only played a handful of games over the last two seasons — 36, to be exact — and the Caps loaded up the blueline this offseason by adding the likes of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Assuming the top six is comprised of Niskanen, Orpik, John Carlson, Mike Green, Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov, Hillen projects to be battling with the likes of John Erskine, Connor Carrick and Nate Schmidt as the next man up (or seventh defenseman, should head coach Barry Trotz dress that many.)

But speaking of Trotz, that’s something Hillen has going for him. The former Colorado College standout played under Trotz in Nashville during the 2011-12 campaign and had a pretty good year, appearing in 55 games while making his Stanley Cup playoff debut.