Another restricted free agent has avoided arbitration, as the Washington Capitals today announced that Liam O’Brien has signed a one-year two-way contract worth $650K at the NHL level. O’Brien was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on July 23rd, but will no longer require it. He will still be a restricted free agent at the end of this contract.
O’Brien, 23, has never been known for his scoring ability, but instead as one of the hardest working players on the ice every night. Even in junior he seemed to never take a shift off, and would engage physically at every chance he had. Since joining the Capitals as an undrafted free agent in 2014, he’s continued to work and develop as something other than a bruising option and scored a career-high 17 goals last season for the Hershey Bears. He also recorded the fewest penalty minutes of his professional career as the AHL continues to move further away from fights and enforcers, and model itself after the increasingly quick and skilled game found at the highest level.
To keep his career moving forward in that skilled world, O’Brien has continued to work on his puck skills and speed and is now a valued offensive component of the Hershey attack. He finished second on the team in goals last season, and could be relied upon even more now that Chris Bourque has moved on to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. If the Capitals face injuries he could also be a short-term replacement in the bottom-six, and try to follow in the footsteps of Tom Wilson who plays a similarly physical game, albeit with a touch more skill and success.