Even if there's no hockey in October, Troy Brouwer will be smiling. His wife, Carmine, is due to give birth to the couple's first child, and their moves over the next few weeks will all be made with that as the top priority.
Brouwer was happy as well as relieved Wednesday when he signed a three-year, $11 million extension with the Washington Capitals that ensures he could be a top-six forward here through 2015-16. He beat the clock on Saturday's expiration of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, but Brouwer has no doubt where his priorities are.
"Having a baby in a couple weeks here so I also wanted to get it done before the baby came so I could focus on that," he said.
In October, Brouwer's life will change exponentially, but this new contract eliminates the variable of his possibly hitting unrestricted free agency next summer. The 27-year-old said it "wasn't too terribly tough a decision" to stick around in Washington, where he'll count $3.67 million against the salary cap once the extension begins in 2013-14.
"I really like where the team is headed right now. I thought we made a lot of good progress last year with our season. Going into the second round and being a team that could really compete," Brouwer said. "Plus also the stability for my family. I still have one more year left on my existing contract and then adding three more years on top of that it ensures that me and my family will be set."
Stability is what Brouwer brings to the Caps, too. It's just as possible to imagine him flanking Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro on the first line as it is for Brouwer to play a checking line role alongside Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.
"Troy is a physical and versatile power forward who can play both wings and who has averaged close to 20 goals in the past three seasons," general manager George McPhee said in a statement. "He is a Stanley Cup winner and a great leader."
Brouwer had 18 goals and 15 assists last season and he provided essential screens in front of goalies throughout. But his contributions off the ice were arguably just as valuable.
He talked last summer about wanting to lead, even as a newcomer, and he got that chance as an alternate captain for stretches. Having won a Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Brouwer wants to help keep teammates even-keeled.
"We have a rather young team and a lot of the guys won at pretty much every level they've been at," he said. "A lot of the guys know how to win, but sometimes it's just changing those emotions or changing that preparation and channeling it into a game and a very important game."
On the ice, Brouwer still has room for improvement as a young player himself. He seemed to have no problem meshing with the Caps, but offensive production is an area of emphasis, especially if new coach Adam Oates sees him as a first- or second-liner.
"Anywhere that Oates wants to fit me into the lineup, hopefully I can mesh well and just kind of have a smooth transition into next season and continue playing well as we were in the playoffs," Brouwer said.
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