The Washington Capitals entered the 2011 offseason with one vital unrestricted free agent to re-sign, which they took care of Tuesday morning as they signed Brooks Laich to a six-year, $27 million deal.
Until the minute the deal was announced, it had appeared that Laich would be testing the free-agent market, especially after the Capitals dealt for top-nine winger Troy Brouwer at the NHL draft on Friday.
That's because in this year's particularly weak unrestricted free-agent pool, Laich was one of the most coveted players available and probably could have fetched $5 million a season from a team desperate for offensive talent.
Instead, Laich decided to return to the team that gave him his chance to play in the NHL, but he didn't take much of a hometown discount in doing so.
At a $4.5 million cap hit, Laich becomes one of the Capitals most highly paid players, and rightfully so. However, the team probably overpaid slightly for the 28-year-old fan favorite, but Laich was a player the team simply couldn't afford to lose.
Offensively, Laich is a 50- to 60-point man, depending on both how much power-play time he receives. He's a hard-working forward who often gets his goals by literally willing the puck over the goal line. With Brouwer now in the mix, Laich could be centering a powerful second line with Alexander Semin and Brouwer, or an intimidating third line with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr.
That's the beauty of Brooks Laich.
You can basically put him on any one of your team's four lines and know he'll get the job done. He may not be the most skilled guy in the world, but on a Capitals team that sometimes lacks heart, he's an absolutely critical piece to the puzzle.
On the defensive side, he's just as, if not more, valuable to the Capitals, as he's a tireless penalty-killer and is defensively sound as a winger or center.
As a leader, Laich is one of the most respected voices in the Capitals locker room because he works as hard as anyone on the team night in and night out.
Heading into the offseason, Laich had said his No. 1 priority was playing for a team that would contend for the Stanley Cup. His decision to stay in Washington means that either the money was simply too much to ignore, or he thinks the Capitals have a great chance to win a Cup in the next six years.
Knowing the type of player and person that Brooks Laich is, I'm assuming it was the latter.