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NHL Pittsburgh PenguinsWashington Capitals

Washington Capitals Sign Brooks Orpik to Ridiculous Contract

Brooks Orpik

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For the last decade, Brooks Orpik has been the defensive staple to the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ blue line. Often overshadowed by the offensive prowess of fellow defenseman Kris Letang, Orpik was a dominant penalty killer and consistently one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL. Orpik has almost always matched up against the opposing team’s top line and was a big reason why the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.

However, that’s all in the past.

Orpik has faded over the last few seasons, and it’s been known for some time that the Penguins would likely be unable to re-sign him. The Penguins have a limited amount of cap space, and they just didn’t have the money to pay No. 44.

Just like Matt Niskanen, Orpik was free to leave the Penguins organization and test the waters of being an unrestricted free agent. Many Penguins fans, like myself, were hoping that Orpik would go to a west coast team so that we would rarely have to play against the guy who has worn black and gold for the last 10 seasons.

Then he signed with the Washington Capitals – not exactly what the Penguins’ faithful had in mind.

It was upsetting to see yet another member of the Penguins join a rival team, which has been a pattern over the last few years. The Pens lost Max Talbot to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, Mike Rupp and Aaron Asham to the New York Rangers in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and now Orpik to the Capitals.

However, once the details of the contract were released, it all made sense why he would do so. The Capitals signed Orpik to a ridiculous five-year, $27.5 million contract.

Orpik, who will turn 34 in September, has already lost a step and struggled to contain players like Claude Giroux of the Flyers and, most recently, Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan of the Rangers in the last two postseasons. Orpik was also the defenseman that Jonathan Toews undressed in this past year’s outdoor game between the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.

To be blunt, Orpik is neither the caliber of player that will still be useful when he reaches 37 or 38 years old, nor a guy who should be getting paid $5.5 million per season.

It’s going to be strange to see Orpik wearing any other crest on his chest, but it’s also difficult to imagine that Orpik is going to be able to shutdown either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin when the Capitals play against Orpik’s former team.

If this was the contract that Orpik was asking for from the Penguins, it’s obvious why the Pens’ front office chose not to re-sign him. Maybe Orpik will prove me wrong and be a reliable defenseman for the next five seasons, but many of the elite goal scorers in the NHL are starting to look at Orpik as more of a pylon and less of a defensive threat.