With the days winding down until the expiration of the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs around the league have been looking to get players signed under the deal that expires Saturday.
The Washington Capitals were no exception Wednesday as they signed gritty winger Troy Brouwer to a three-year contract extension worth $11 million, a deal that won't kick in until the 2013-14 season. One year remains on the two-year, $4.7 million deal Brouwer signed last summer after his trade from the Chicago Blackhawks.
"We had talks throughout the summer, and I think on both sides, we both wanted to get something done [before the season]," Brouwer said in a conference call with reporters. "My wife and I are having a baby in a couple of weeks, so we wanted to get something done before the baby came so I could focus on that."
The winger turned 27 last month, and would have been an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming season, under the terms of the expiring CBA.
Brouwer has notched 57 goals in his last three seasons, two of which came with Chicago. He was dealt as an unsigned restricted free agent to Washington last June for the Capitals' first round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft (Chicago used the pick on left winger Phillip Danault) and now the Vancouver native will be under contract with the Caps for four more years.
During his first year in Washington, Brouwer showed grit and skill, recording 18 goals and 15 assists, and also spent time on the team's checking line.
"I thought I had a good season," Brouwer said. "I tried to fit in with the guys right away. I'm a versatile player and can fit in up and down the lineup, wherever the coach wants me to play."
However, with Alexander Semin's departure to Carolina, Brouwer will be one of the players looked upon to replace the lost goals on the wing, and he likely will see a role on the second line at some point in the new campaign. But Brouwer is happy to play whatever role new Capitals coach Adam Oates - who is expected to implement a more aggressive style - envisions for him.
"Anywhere that Oates wants fit me into the lineup, hopefully I can mesh well and have a smooth transition into next season, and continue playing well as we were in the playoffs."
If Brouwer blossoms as the Capitals apparently hope he does into a top six forward, his $3.66M cap hit over the three-year period of the contract - pending any reduction with the new CBA - would be a good value for the club. Per the team, Brouwer will earn $3.6 million in 2013-14, $3.65 million in 2014-15 and $3.75 million in 2015-16.
"Troy is a physical and versatile power forward who can play both wings and who has averaged close to 20 goals in the past three seasons," Caps General Manager George McPhee said in a statement. "He is a Stanley Cup winner and a great leader. We are thrilled that he will continue his career in Washington for many years to come."
Off-the-ice, Brouwer provides vocal leadership. He was very outspoken at times last season, calling out his teammates after some poor performances. With fellow vocal veteran winger Mike Knuble gone from the club, the club will need more of the same leadership from Brouwer, who was part of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run in 2010, a fact that formed part of the reason he was brought to Washington.
"A lot of guys know how to win, but sometimes it's taking those emotions and taking the preparation and channeling it into the game, into important games," he said. "Hopefully last year I was able to bring some secondary experience as far as games played and playoff games. I thought we had a good mix in there last year, and bringing [Mike] Ribeiro in now, we're going to have even more of that this season."
According to Brouwer, the main reason he elected to sign for three more years instead of testing the market next summer is that he was encouraged by the direction of the club.
"I really like where the team is headed," Brouwer said. "I felt we made a lot of good progress last season, going into the second round and being a team that can really compete.
While the start of the season is in doubt due to the ongoing labor dispute, Brouwer indicated his belief that the situation was better than has been reported in the media, citing progress in the talks. Brouwer, who attended the union meetings in Chicago in June, spoke Wednesday from New York as approximately 275 players gathered with the NHLPA try to hammer out a new deal with the league before a threatened lockout is put into place.
"Things are moving along even though it may seem like they're not," he said. "Until we have our player meetings [Wednesday and Thursday], it's really tough to tell what's going to happen. But I still think there's plenty of time to get a deal done. A lot of things have been worked out and have progressed throughout this whole process.
"We're just making sure there's a fair deal for both sides. Both sides, I hope, are still optimistic that a deal can be reached in the next couple days."
In the meantime, Brouwer said he would return to Washington for Capitals camp next week if the season starts on time. Should there be a lockout, he and his wife would remain in Chicago until a settlement is reached. Eventually, the Brouwers will move to the nation's capital with the new addition in tow.
"I get stability for my family. It ensures me and my family will be set and we like living in DC, as well. It wasn't too tough a decision."