RALEIGH, N.C. — Jack Hillen signed a two-year extension with the Washington Capitals, generating more questions about what next season’s blue line will look like.
Hillen’s deal is worth $1.4 million, so his cap hit will be $700,000 in each of the next two years.
“I just wanted to get it settled and get it behind me so I can just concentrate on hockey and play the game,” Hillen said Tuesday. “Stuff off the ice, it’s nice when it takes care of itself, and when that’s what happens, you can just focus on hockey and have fun playing.”
The 26-year-old is a left-handed defenseman. John Erskine, Dmitry Orlov and Jeff Schultz are lefties already under contract for 2013-14 and the Caps figure to re-sign top-pair defenseman Karl Alzner, who’s set to be a restricted free agent.
Hillen’s wife is due to give birth to the couple’s second child within the next two weeks. Getting a deal done is one less thing he has to worry about.
The Caps gave Hillen the first one-way contract of his professional career last summer, inking him for $650,000. The new deal is a slight raise and a nice commitment for a guy who became a top-four defenseman since returning from an upper-body injury March 16.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get it done and signed because they gave me an opportunity and a good chance and I feel like I really like the style we play, it fits well for my game,” Hillen said. “They gave me a chance and I like it here, so I really wanted to get something done.”
Hillen missed 25 games after getting hurt in the season opener at the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was hard to figure as he skated by himself that he’d become such an important piece of the defensive corps and even harder to envision the Caps signing him to this kind of deal.
“I didn’t picture this, but you never know what’s going to come, that’s why you’ve got to take it a day at a time,” Hillen said.
The Caps have five defensemen on one-way contracts for next season: Mike Green, John Carlson, Erskine, Schultz and Hillen. They also should have Alzner and young defensemen Orlov, Steve Oleksy, Tomas Kundratek, Cameron Schilling and newly signed Nate Schmidt.
Hillen feels like he’s a good fit within coach Adam Oates’ system.
“Coach puts an emphasis on skating and making good passes and I think that’s part of my game,” he said.