By Jack Anderson
The Washington Capitals entered free agency looking to improve their center situation. They quickly did so bringing in local product Jeff Halpern, signing him to a one-year, $825,000 contract.
Halpern, a Potomac native and former Capitals captain, returns to Washington after playing on four different teams since leaving the Nations’s Capital after the 2005-06 season. He played in Montreal last season scoring 11 goals and adding 15 assists. He is entering his 12th season.
The 35-year old center will likely serve as Boyd Gordon’s replacement as the latter signed with the Phoenix Coyotes minutes after the Capitals added Halpern.
With Troy Brouwer and Karl Alzner expected to sign deals in the coming weeks, George McPhee had to be mindful of the salary cap this weekend. Instead of matching the Coyotes 2-year $2.65 million offer for Gordon, McPhee brought in a player with better offensive numbers for significantly less money.
Gordon was a valuable commodity as a defensive zone specialist—he started in the offensive zone just 42.7% of the time—but Halpern started in the offensive zone 43.3% of the time. Gordon won 58% of his 719 faceoffs while Halpern won 56.9% of his 594 draws.
The similarities don’t stop there. Gordon averaged 2:14 shorthanded TOI/G, second most out of any Capital forwards. Halpern averaged 2:20 SH TOI/G and only Tomas Plekanec averaged more in Montreal.
Final Thoughts: The Caps upgrade the fourth line center position and also get a defensive zone specialist who doesn’t possess the durability issues Gordon has. In addition, the move gives them the salary cap flexibility Gordon’s deal wouldn’t have.