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The Donald Departs the District

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While other teams were happy to toss commits tens of millions of dollars in new free agent contracts at the start of the NHL's free agent signing period, the Washington Capitals kept things relatively quiet. Sure, they did make one major deal, signing Mike Knuble to a tidy two-year, $5.6 million contract. The 37-year old right wing, best known for doing the dirty work in front of the net that Washington so desperately needs, was available for the right price, so the team pulled the trigger. ↵

↵But the name that's on the lips of a lot of local hockey fans in D.C. today is Donald Brashear. In his three years with the Caps, Brashear quickly became one of the team's more popular players, and it was never too long before one of his teammates would talk about how Brashear's mere presence on the bench helped open up the ice for his more talented teammates. ↵

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↵But now, after a spring where some rumors had him headed to the KHL, Brashear signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract to play in New York for the Rangers. It's a signing that isn't without some irony, as Brashear was suspended for five games during this year's playoffs for a nasty hit to the head of Rangers forward Blair Betts. ↵

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↵The loss of Brashear wasn't exactly a complete surprise, as GM George McPhee telegraphed the move in an interview with Corey Masisak of the Washington Times late last week. Furthermore, with the salary cap projected to be static over the next few seasons, keeping a designated enforcer in the lineup was beginning to look like a substantial luxury. ↵

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↵Still, there's little doubt that having a body like Brashear's in the lineup isn't a real asset. With Brashear gone, the role of enforcer will likely fall to winger Matt Bradley. But while Bradley always answers the bell no matter who his opponent might be, he's ended up on the losing end of his bouts more often than not. According to the voters on Hockeyfights.com, Bradley was 0-5-4 this past season. ↵

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↵Will it make a difference next year? Stay tuned. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.