Roman Hamrlik was placed on waivers by the Washington Capitals on Tuesday after spending 16 of the first 20 games this season as a healthy scratch.
“You know what, obviously depth-wise we got a lot of defensemen and he hasn’t played in a long time, and quite honestly he’s been great about it, and give him a chance to play,” coach Adam Oates said. “We’re trying to do the right thing, and depending on what happens, nothing might change. He might be here tomorrow. And if he goes somewhere, good for him. Good luck.”
The 38-year-old defenseman is in the final season of a two-year, $7 million contract. He has one assist in four games this year and a cap hit of $3.5 million.
The Caps signed and recalled defenseman Steve Oleksy from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League to replace Jeff Schultz in the lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Bruins. That move was made, coach Adam Oates said, because Oleksy is a right-handed shot.
Hamrlik is a left-handed shot and has played 52:23 all season. Oates on Feb. 4 said of the veteran: “He’s a big boy. He’ll get his chance.” Hamrlik played one game since and only because defenseman Tom Poti was hurt.
“Yeah there really hasn’t been one,” Oates said. “And in fairness, what I told him is: ‘You have a bad night, everybody has a bad night.’ And I wouldn’t evaluate him on one bad night because that’s not fair to anybody. But since the last few weeks we’ve played much better hockey, so you can’t take a guy out of the lineup for one game. And he just hasn’t had his chance and we haven’t had injuries back there that he’s got his opportunity. It’s been a long time and give him a chance to play. He’s been professional.”
If Hamrlik is not claimed, the Caps have the option of assigning him to Hershey, but that’s not the intention. There’s very little benefit in doing so, as Hamrlik would still count $3.4 million against the salary cap if sent to the AHL because he is in the second year of a deal signed after he turned 35.
It’s uncertain if an NHL team will take a chance on Hamrlik. He signed with the Caps in July 2011 because they were willing to give him a two-year deal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie speculated that Hamrlik will be claimed.
“He still feels he can play, and he can play,” Oates said. “It’s been a numbers game here, and that’s all it is.”
Any team that claims Hamrlik would take on his $3.5 million cap hit and his remaining salary.
This is his 20th NHL season. The No. 1 overall pick in 1992 was the first selection in Tampa Bay Lightning history. Hamrlik has 155 goals and 483 assists in 1,383 games.
(stick tap to @sk84fun_dc for the heads-up on the 35-and-over rule)