July 23, 2014

Washington Capitals sign D Jack Hillen; add depth to blue line corps

The Washington Capitals continued to add depth to their NHL roster Tuesday, signing 26-year old defenseman Jack Hillen to a one-year, one-way contract, reportedly worth $650,000. Hillen, a Minnesota native, scored six points (two goals, four assists) with 20 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Nashville Predators last season. As his stats might indicate, Hillen is a strong-skating stay-at-home defenseman.

The move bolsters an already crowded blue line corps, especially at the back end. Presumably the Caps will work out deals with RFAs Mike Green and John Carlson. Add Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz and John Erskine to the mix and we’re talking eight NHL veteran defenseman on the roster. Throw in Cameron Schilling, whom GM George McPhee referenced last week as a possible play this season with the big club, and the bottom pairing becomes a very busy place.

McPhee usually likes to keep an extra defenseman on the roster, but carrying eight on a nightly basis might not be the most practical application, leading many to speculate that he’s accumulating depth in order to have plenty of ammunition to make a deal at some point, whether it’s over the summer, during camp or once the season begins. The Caps could use some help in the top six, and with McPhee’s insistence that the Caps won’t be players in the inflated free agent market, any assistance will have to come via trades.

Here’s the press release on Hillen:

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have signed defenseman Jack Hillen to a one-year contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hillen, 26, recorded six points (two goals, four assists) and 20 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Nashville Predators last season. He finished the season eighth on Nashville in plus/minus (plus-six) and tied for eighth in blocked shots (65). Hillen made his NHL playoff debut last season, appearing in two games of the Western Conference quarterfinal series vs. Detroit.

The Minnetonka, Minnesota, native has collected 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists) and 129 penalty minutes in 230 career NHL games with the New York Islanders and Nashville. He posted career highs in goals (four), assists (tied; 18), points (22) and penalty minutes (45) during the 2010-11 campaign with the Islanders and tallied one assist in six games with the United States during the 2010 World Championships.

The 5’10”, 190-pound blueliner spent four seasons with Colorado College of the WCHA, where he was teammates with newly acquired Capital Joey Crabb. Hillen earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, WCHA First All-Star Team and NCAA (West) First All-American Team honors during his senior season in 2008. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Islanders on April 1, 2008.

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Capitals coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

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