- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 2, 2011

When joining a new team, just about every player talks about the desire to win a Stanley Cup. “I want to try to bring a Cup to [insert city here]” is usually a quote you can predict ahead of time.

But for guys signing with the Washington Capitals, that shiny silver trophy is a particularly sore subject. It’s obviously the goal as it is with any other NHL franchise, but recent playoff appearances have ended in failure and caused general manager George McPhee to look for certain kinds of players to fill holes.

On Friday — the first day of free agency — he and the Caps signed Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern and Roman Hamrlik. Ward and Hamrlik said Saturday they think they can be ingredients in a Stanley Cup-winning mix in Washington.

“As playoff time comes around, you get excited,” Ward said. “You play 82 games and with all the travel sometimes you’re a little fatigued, but then you gotta find another notch and pick it up a little.”

Ward’s playoff numbers are well-known by now — 13 points in 12 games with the Nashville Predators a few months ago. The 30-year-old right wing enjoys what he called the “challenge” of playoff hockey.

In Nashville, Ward and his teammates captured a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Winning one series isn’t so much of a novelty with the Caps, but that’s even better.

“Knowing you’re gonna make the playoffs every year and be consistent at it and have a good shot at winning the Stanley Cup — it’s always a good feeling,” he said.

Hamrlik is a bit older at 37, but in 18 NHL seasons the defenseman has not won the Stanley Cup. Throw him into a mix with already hungry players like Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin and he hopes the result is a good one.

“I’m not getting any younger, and I really like that team,” Hamrlik said. “I think I’m getting to that age when I’m 37 and I was choosing Capitals for hopefully go deep in the playoffs and win the Cup one day.”

Halpern — on his honeymoon in the Bahamas and unavailable to talk until next week — has never been on a team that has won a playoff series. But Hamrlik, who was Halpern’s teammate last year with the Canadiens, had good things to say about the 35-year-old center.

“He’s a good guy. He’s always working hard and he’s happy with the guys and the teammates always like him,” Hamrlik said. “He can bring especially things on the PK [penalty kill], and he can bring experience, too.”

Among Ward, Halpern and Hamrlik, none of these signings are headliners. But each player wants to be the guy to make the playoff failures a distant memory.

Said Ward: “I just hope that I can kinda come in and help push them over the edge.”

Note - Tough guy Matt Bradley signed a two-year deal with the Florida Panthers on Saturday.