Capitals sign Matt Niskanen to 7-year, $40 million deal

Capitals sign Matt Niskanen to 7-year, $40 million deal
July 1, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Go ahead and call them the Washington Penguins.

The Capitals have signed defenseman Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million contract, completing a furious day of free-agent activity for new general manager Brian MacLellan.

Niskanen, 27, will carry a cap hit of $5.75 million. His signing came three days after his wedding and shortly after the Caps agreed to a five-year, $27.5 million contract with 33-year-old defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Combined with the two-year, $1.9 million contract the Caps gave backup goaltender Justin Peters, MacLellan spent $69.65 million on Tuesday.

Orpik said he visited Washington on Sunday, meeting with Caps owner Ted Leonsis, general manager Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz. After his visit he said it was clear he wanted to join the Caps and let Niskanen know which direction he was leaning.

Orpik said he also received a generous contract offer from a Western Conference team, but decided on the Caps, in part because his wife has family in the area.

[RELATED: Free Agent Frenzy: Busy day in Metropolitan Division]

As for that hefty deal, Orpik says he’s worth it.

“I think my body of work speaks for itself,” Orpik said. “The age, to me, isn’t really a huge favor. Anyone who’s played with me knows how well I take care of myself nutrition-wise and diet-wise.

“Whether you’re 22 or 33, whenever you sign a long contract there’s always some type of risk with injury. But in terms of dollar value, that’s just something that evolved.

“Every year the [salary] cap goes up with the way the league is growing. No matter who you are someone’s going to think you’re overpaid or underpaid or got what you want. No matter what that number is you keep doing what you’re doing. There’s a reason they gave it to you and you remind yourself of that, but you keep doing what you’re doing.”

Niskanen was the beneficiary of a career season in Pittsburgh, where he recorded career highs in goals [10], assists [36] and plus-minus [plus-33].

“It’s a very big commitment from Wash,” Niskanen said. “That’s no small thing. I’m grateful.”

Niskanen, a right-handed shot, said he has played on both the right side and left side and is comfortable playing on either side. Caps assistant coach Todd Reirden, who was influential in bringing both players to Washington, noted that Orpik and John Carlson played together for Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Both Niskanen and Orpik said they didn’t envision leaving the Penguins until there were changes to management and the coaching staff in Pittbsurgh.