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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Dmitry Orlov developed into one of the Washington Capitals’ best defensemen last season, and he’s being rewarded with a long-term, big-money contract.
The Capitals re-signed Orlov on Friday to a $30.6 million, six-year deal that carries a $5.1 million salary-cap hit through the 2022-23 season. The substantial raise from his $2.57 million, one-year contract reflects the top-pairing role he has assumed on the blue line.
“His growth, we talked about a young player being patient, allowing him to grow, allowing him to make mistakes, allowing him to get to the next level,” coach Barry Trotz said Friday. “And with a good plan and his work ethic and him buying into it, he’s turned himself into a pretty good player, a good piece for us, and he’s getting paid for it.”
Orlov tweeted that he’s happy to stay in Washington and can’t wait for next year.
The 25-year-old Russian was the Capitals’ most improved player last season. He had six goals, a career-high 27 assists and 33 points in 82 games after missing the entire 2014-15 season with a wrist injury.
“It was a coming out party for him,” defense partner Matt Niskanen said. “He turned into a stud. He was our best D-man on many, many occasions this year.”
Orlov developed into a top-pairing defenseman with the trust of Trotz and associate coach Todd Reirden, playing alongside Niskanen late in the season and into the playoffs.
“They give me chance to play and I try to play smart and not make big mistakes,” Orlov said recently. “Thanks coaches to give me this opportunity to play more minutes and I try to do my best, try to be better than last year, try to get confidence and get my game going and get more comfortable.”
A year after being a healthy scratch in the playoffs and playing a smaller role, Orlov averaged over 19 minutes a game in the regular season and over 21 minutes in the playoffs.
“Every player like when he play more,” Orlov said. “It’s human nature. You want to play, you want to be big part of your team.”
Orlov said he tried to learn from Niskanen and cut down on some of the risky plays and mistakes he made as a younger player. Coming back from being out so long with the wrist injury forced Orlov to re-learn on-ice instincts, and the effect of that was noticeable.
“I think more than anything he’s got a good balance and you got trust in his game,” Trotz said. “That comes with reps and confidence and success, and when you have all those, which Orly has, you see that his skillset comes out offensively, defensively, he plays with a little bit of an edge, he’s good 1-on-1. There’s a lot of things that you like about Dmitry.”
MacLellan said re-signing Orlov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer was his top offseason priority — all were restricted free agents. Last week he re-signed pending unrestricted winger T.J. Oshie to a $46 million, eight-year deal.
Cap-crunched Washington will almost certainly lose winger Justin Williams, forward Daniel Winnik and defensemen Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency. The Capitals have roughly $12 million in cap space left and still need to sign Kuznetsov, Burakovsy and Grubauer to new contracts.
Because of that, the Capitals are expected to be quiet in the free agent market.
“The priority is on our existing guys, our RFAs,” Trotz said. “(Capitals executives are) working hard. They’ll have a good plan. When the dust settles, we’ll see what we’ve got.”
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .
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