Capitals continue defensive overhaul, sign Matt Niskanen for 7 years, $40.25 million

Mike Strasinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are taking all of the Penguins' former defensemen.

So what are the Washington Capitals doing this offseason?

It seems that they're doing everything they can to acquire the Pittsburgh Penguins' defense one player at a time.

Just hours after giving Brooks Orpik what was perhaps the craziest contract on the opening day of free agency, they followed that up by giving out one of the largest, signing Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million contract.

It's not as outrageous as the contract Orpik signed because Niskanen is still close to the prime of his career and brings a mobile, puck-moving presence to the Capitals' blue line as well as an option on the power play. Simply put, Niskanen is better suited for the direction the NHL is headed, and if you're going to shower a free agent defenseman with a massive contract, you're better off doing it to a guy like Niskanen. Still, that's a big investment.

He may never repeat what he did last season offensively, but he's always been a strong possession player on the blue line in the right role.

The problem for the Capitals is that they're not only buying him at his highest possible value off of a career year, but they're also doing it in a year where he was perhaps the top option available on the blue line. That leads to a massive contract that may turn out to be underwhelming in a couple of years when some of Niskanen's puck luck from a year ago balances out.  A lot of things went right for Niskanen last season (seventh highest PDO in the NHL among players that appeared in at least 41 games) and at times throughout his career he's seemed to be in over his head when he's been asked to play top-pairing minutes.

The Capitals have had their problems defensively over the years and they're taking a pretty expensive gamble this offseason that two players one of their biggest rivals determined weren't worth that sort of investment can fix them.

Let's see how it works.

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