After being traded and bought out earlier this summer, Brooks Orpik is heading back to the Washington Capitals. The team announced a one-year $1MM contract for the veteran defenseman, which will also carry up to $500K in performance bonuses. Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports that Orpik will receive $250K once he plays in 20 games and another $250K when he reaches the 40-game plateau.
Orpik, 37, was deemed too expensive to keep around on his previous contract and was attached to the Philipp Grubauer trade with the Colorado Avalanche. That limited the return for the Capitals to just a second-round pick, but also removed Orpik’s $5.5MM contract from the books. That was extremely important given that the Capitals needed to re-sign John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Tom Wilson (among others) this offseason, and may not have been able to fit everyone in under the salary cap. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic was immediately clear that he would either trade Orpik somewhere he was wanted or buy him out to allow him to search for another opportunity, since Colorado didn’t have plans to use him as they continue to get younger and more skilled.
The buyout, which was the eventual course of action, means that Colorado is paying Orpik $1.5MM this year and next to not play for their team and will incur a cap penalty of $2.5MM this season. That doesn’t both them, but was an impossibility for the Capitals while still having enough space to sign everyone else. Another impossibility would be re-signing Orpik after the buyout had they done it themselves, as it is prohibited by the CBA. Not when it’s another team who completes it though, meaning Orpik was free to return to the team that he won a Stanley Cup just this season. With his potential $1.5MM salary this season should he hit all of his performance bonuses, Orpik actually isn’t losing a single dollar from the $4.5MM he was supposed to be paid for 2018-19.
His role with Washington though may be greatly diminished. Though Orpik was a key player for the team in their magical Stanley Cup run, the team obviously has intentions of using Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos more going forward, and with Kempny in town for the whole season there will already be a lack of available minutes. Even past that, Orpik had clearly lost a step during the season and posted some of the poorest possession statistics in the entire league. What he will bring though is a ton of experience and the ability to move in and out of the lineup when necessary. The veteran of 982 regular season games and two Stanley Cups will no doubt play a role in the Capitals encore performance, but it might just be that of a part-time player.