The Washington Post

Contract came at ideal time for Capitals’ van Riemsdyk


new york — Trevor van Riemsdyk received a call from his agent late last week and turned the speakerpho­ne on. His father, Frans, was in the room, and Trevor wanted him to hear the news: The Washington Capitals were re-signing him for three more seasons. He hung up and hugged Frans. They shared a beer afterward and reflected on how far he had come since his youth playing days in Middletown, N. J.

He wasn’t about to rest on his laurels, either; in the hours after the deal was announced, van Riemsdyk anchored the top defensive pairing and recorded two assists in a 5-1 win at the New York Islanders.

“It was nice to have a good game after that to also celebrate,” said van Riemsdyk, who just two

seasons ago toiled as the Capitals’ seventh defenseman and endured stretches as a healthy scratch.

His new deal, which will give him a hefty raise at $3 million per year, doesn’t just bring newfound stability to his life — his wife is 38 weeks pregnant, and van Riemsdyk was dreading a possible move had he been dealt at the trade deadline. It also sets up the 31-year-old as an entrenched piece of the team’s future on the blue line. He joins John Carlson, Nick Jensen and Rasmus Sandin as the four defensemen under contract next season; the Capitals also have restricted free agents who should be back in Martin Fehervary and Alexander Alexeyev, which would further solidify a defensive corps that had a murky outlook just a few weeks ago.

Carlson, who is still recovering from a head injury suffered in December, was the only Capitals defenseman who entered this season on a long-term contract. That left the front office scrambling to shore up the future of the blue line before the deadline. Washington traded Dmitry Orlov and Erik Gustafsson and acquired the 23-year-old Sandin from the Toronto Maple Leafs; it also re-signed Jensen to a threeyear deal days before the deadline. But van Riemsdyk was forced to sweat out the deadline as a possible trade piece as General Manager Brian Maclellan fielded last-minute calls. He opted against moving van Riemsdyk, which opened the door for more negotiatio­ns on a long-term contract.

“The deadline comes and goes, and you never know how that will go with where we were at and how things were looking. . . . It takes a little bit of time,” van Riemsdyk said. “I’m in an extremely fortunate situation. I’ve gotten in with the Caps, and they’ve treated me really well since I’ve gotten here. I’m extremely grateful.”

His three-year contract is the longest he has signed in his nine-year career and is a reward for his resilience over the past three seasons. A right-handed defenseman who won the Stanley Cup during his rookie season with the Chicago Blackhawks in

2015, van Riemsdyk came to Washington on a one-year deal in 2020. He played just 20 games that season, biding his time as part of the taxi squad and watching many games from the press box as a healthy scratch. But he did enough to earn another twoyear deal, and he responded by offering versatilit­y to the lineup and chipping in a career-high 17 points last season.

With the Capitals’ back end decimated by injuries this season, he has proved to be a reliable top-pair defenseman and a mainstay on the penalty kill — he has a team-high 148 blocked shots — while also enjoying the most productive offensive output of his career.

He has tallied 21 points, including five in his past seven games.

“Just watching him over the three years, the first year we had seven NHL defensemen here, and he found himself in and out of the lineup. He was just an unbelievab­le profession­al the way he went about his business,” Washington Coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s been a real strength for us on the back end. . . . A good two-way defenseman. He can break pucks out. He’s got a good first pass. He jumps into the offense. He’s pushed it a little bit the last two years. . . . He’s looking to create.”

Laviolette called van Riemsdyk “a low-maintenanc­e hockey player” who has establishe­d himself as a respected teammate in the dressing room, and the defenseman backed it up in recent weeks even as his contract situation was up in the air.

When Jensen and Fehervary recently missed three games with injuries, van Riemsdyk not only took on a heavier load (he has averaged 25 minutes 22 seconds of ice time in his past three games) but also focused on helping their young replacemen­ts learn the system and adjust off the ice. That includes Sandin, who has skated on the top pair alongside van Riemsdyk and recorded eight points in his first four games with Washington.

“We’ve started to know each other really well both on the ice and off the ice,” Sandin said. “He’s been helping me a lot since first game, first practice.”

As he took the ice for practice at Madison Square Garden on Monday morning ahead of the team’s game against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, van Riemsdyk took his place among the top four defensemen. He is optimistic about what the group has left in the tank for the final 15 games and how the Capitals will coalesce in the future, he said, but he only reached this point by leaning on his loved ones.

He and his brother James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelph­ia Flyers were both rumored to be on the trade block before the deadline, and they talked with each other as much as they could for support. And, of course, Trevor’s contract extension could not have come at a better time, with his father traveling with the team as part of the annual mentors trip.

“To sign a deal like that, it just kind of makes you reminisce, especially with your dad there, about all the hard work he’s put in,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without him.”

 ?? Jonathan NEWTON/THE WASHINGTON POST ?? Trevor van Riemsdyk leads Washington with 148 blocked shots and already has a career-high 21 points.
Jonathan NEWTON/THE WASHINGTON POST Trevor van Riemsdyk leads Washington with 148 blocked shots and already has a career-high 21 points.

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