The consensus top free agent among defenseman has landed with the Washington Capitals. Matt Niskanen will join former Penguins teammate Brooks Orpik with the Capitals on a seven-year, $40.25 million contract. That's an annual average of $5.75 million for the 27-year-old defenseman.
He was the top scorer among all available defensemen with 46 points, including 10 goals in 81 games for the Penguins. He also was a standout performer in the postseason with nine points in 13 games for the Penguins.
Niskanen is an eight-year veteran of the league and has 167 points in 491 career NHL games.
The Capitals spent big on defense and grabbed two defenders from one of their top rivals in the process. Niskanen had his share of suitors, which meant the price was going to be high. Is he worth a $5.75 million a year? Probably not in the normal setting, but in this market, there's a pretty good argument, but that kind of price tag for a guy who has primarily been a second-pairing defenseman could have scared some teams off.
With the additions of Orpik and Niskanen, the Caps will be spending $28.7 million on their blue line this season, which is second most in the league according to CapGeek.com. Of that $28.7 million, $11.25 is tied up in Niskanen and Orpik.
The Caps also boast Mike Green, who will become an unrestricted free agent after next season, on the back end. It will be interesting to see how Washington's work today will impact their team in the efforts to re-sign Green, if they even try when the time comes.
It's hard to argue that the Caps blue line is better today than it was yesterday, but if the improvement was worth the high cost remains to be seen.