Washington Capitals Severely Overpay Brooks Orpik in One of Free Agency’s Most Confusing Deals
Coming into the offseason, one of the biggest holes the Washington Capitals needed to fill was defense. The Washington blue line was in need of some toughness, and today it looks like they’ve acquired some, signing former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.
That’s all well and good, as Orpik will certainly add some physicality to the Caps defensive core. But, holy lord, Washington overpaid him something awful.
Orpik’s deal is five years, $27.5 million, paying him $5.5 million annually. Let that sink in for a second. Orpik, who has 13 goals in 11 seasons (1.18 goals per year), is now the fourth-highest paid player on the Capitals. Orpik, who is 33 years old and just saw a significant plunge in his plus/minus rating, just got a $5 million increase from his last contract.
What is Washington thinking? Well, according to GM Brian MacLellan, it was all about leadership and time on ice.
“We feel Brooks’ leadership and experience will greatly enhance our defense for years to come,” MacLellan said. “Brooks plays tough minutes against the opposition’s best players.”
Fair point, I guess. Orpik has been in the league for a while, and that kind of experience is always valuable. He’s known for playing hard and dishing out some big hits.
But is all of that worth $5.5 million a year?
Absolutely not. On top of the aforementioned lack of offense, it’s also worth noting that his “tough minutes” aren’t really much to write home about either. Consider the fact that the 21:11 minutes per game he averaged last season ranked 69th among NHL defensemen. And, at age 33 with eleven years of experience, odds favor that average declining sooner rather than later.
More importantly, it just plain doesn’t make sense to pay this much money for toughness and leadership alone. Tenacity can be bought at a much cheaper rate than what Washington is paying Orpik, ditto for leadership. Are they qualities that every team can appreciate? Sure. But Orpik is now making elite, shutdown defenseman money, and he doesn’t exactly have a career proving he’s earned this much.
Consider this: Orpik will now make just $1 million less per year than Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and just a little over $38,000 less than Chicago Blackhawks blue-liner Duncan Keith. He’ll actually make $2.6 million more than Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban made last season.
What do these three players have in common? Well, they would be the last three winners of the Norris Trophy for league’s best defenseman, and Orpik is getting paid the same kind of money as them now. Because toughness.
Maybe Washington sees something we don’t. Perhaps Orpik puts together some monster seasons with his new team, an ultimate “told you so” moment for the Capitals front office. But, if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to put a lot of money down on the exact opposite taking place, as we may have an early candidate for the “what were they thinking when they gave out that contract” award.