The Washington Times - April 2, 2009, 03:59PM

The Caps signed defenseman Joe Finley today to a two-year entry-level deal that kicks in next season. Finley was a first-round pick in the 2005 NHL draft and has spent the past four seasons at North Dakota.

Finley, who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, is expected to join the Hershey Bears on Monday. The 21-year-old rearguard wanted to finish his college career here in Washington at the Frozen Four, but the Sioux were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament by New Hampshire.

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He is an interesting prospect — obviously his size could be a huge asset on the Caps blueline someday but there are plenty of questions about his ability to stick in the NHL. He is not on the same level as guys like Karl Alzner, Simeon Varlamov and John Carlson, but he is part of a cluster of prospects on the next rung — Grade B guys, if you want to call them that — in the Caps organization.

Finding a place on the Caps blueline in the coming seasons is not going to be easy for any prospect — especially if Alzner and Carlson are the real deal as it would appear — so Finley is going to have to force his way into the team’s plans.