The Washington Capitals signed forward Brooks Laich to a six-year contract on Tuesday, keeping him in DC until the 2016-17 season. While Laich does not bring a large amount of “star-power” to the Caps lineup, he does bring grit and leadership to a team that needs it in order to be successful in the playoffs.
Laich brings intangibles to a team that desperately needs players with intangibles—a knack to get to the net, defensive awareness and being able to play both the wing and center positions were items Laich brought to the table that made him a top forward in the Washington lineup. Losing him to free agency would have required a signing or a trade, likely giving up more than this contract.
Laich was brought to the Washington organization from Ottawa during the George McPhee fire sale in 2003, a trade that saw Caps legend Peter Bondra leave the organization in a year when almost all the big names on the Caps roster were sold off for draft picks, prospects or both.
Laich would perform well in the minor leagues for both the Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears, eventually earning himself a regular spot on the Capitals roster during the 2005-06 season. After the regular season in that year; Laich would go on to win a Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears.
That would be the last time Laich would ever see the minor leagues. as he became a key cog into the Bruce Boudreau plan in Washington that was now starting to pay dividends to Washington hockey fans.
Laich not only brought a prospective 20-goal scorer to the Caps, but he also possesses the versatility of a skilled forward that can be used in all situations. Laich regularly sees time on the penalty kill, and with his net presence, also sees time during the power play. That kind of usefulness justifies the 4.5 million cap hit the new contract will place upon the Capitals.
When the Capitals acquired Troy Brouwer to start the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, it looked as though it would be beneficial for Laich to test the free agency market given the fact Brouwer plays a similar game. However, general manager George McPhee and the rest of the Caps front office apparently came through with a deal that was both manageable for the salary cap and for Laich to stay in the District.
The Capitals have already proven they have the skill to score goals with the best of the NHL. However, what has held them back in the playoffs has been a lack of toughness and determination to get to the net. The fact the Caps had an offensive power outage this season in the playoffs can be directly related to these characteristics.
Keeping Laich retains a player who is willing to go to scoring areas. However, he is one of a few in the Caps lineup and is probably the best net presence on the team. Bringing in Brouwer will also add a solution to this problem, but the Caps are still lacking in toughness in all positions and will need to continue to seek improvements whether is be through the trade market or free agency.
Even with that, the news of the day at Verizon Center is the re-signing of Laich—a player who brings many aspects of the game to the table and has become a fan favorite in Washington, and not just due to the fact he is willing to assist Capitals fans with disabled vehicles.
Laich will now look to become a 30-goal scorer in the National Hockey League with a new long term contract in hand that looks to be a wise signing by the Capitals front office.