Eric Fehr did exactly what a player on a one-year, prove-it contract is supposed to do: earn a better one. Finally healthy after shoulder injuries almost derailed his NHL career, Fehr showed what he could do this season after returning to the Washington Capitals and earned a two-year deal worth $3 million.
“It was tough for me to find a job this year with my injuries and with everything,” said Fehr, who played in Finland during the NHL lockout. “They gave me a chance to come back and I’m real thankful and so far it’s worked out for me. Couldn’t be happier to be here, to be part of the team again. I like to call this place home so I’m real excited.”
General manager George McPhee brought Fehr back in January on a one-year deal worth $600,000. The idea was that if the 2003 first-round pick could remain healthy, he had the ability to add forward depth and produce.
The 27-year-old Fehr missed a week with an upper-body (not shoulder) injury, but when in the lineup he has been a pleasant surprise with eight goals and eight assists in 39 games.
“This year he’s just proven that when he’s healthy he’s a big-time player,” forward Jay Beagle said. “And he’s played well for us. Couldn’t be happier that he signed up two more years.”
Fehr will make $1.4 million next season and $1.6 million in 2014-15. While that’s shy of the $2.2 million he made from 2010-2012 that prompted a salary-dumping trade to the Winnipeg Jets, this raise is a nice reward for his efforts.
“Fehrsie’s had a fantastic year,” coach Adam Oates said. “He started as a healthy scratch, 13th forward, and he’s got an extension which obviously means he’s just grown and grown and grown in responsibilities, and I play him in every situation now.”
“The coach has shown a lot of confidence in me,” Fehr said. “Playing me on the penalty kill, a little bit four-on-four and power play, it’s helped a lot. It’s helped me feel a lot more confident this year. Definitely something that in my mind helped me want to be here more.”
Fehr showing he can be a consistent performer in several situations made the Caps want to have him back, too.
“I think it’s pretty amazing,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “From going through what he went through last season being injured and all that, coming back and showing that he can still do what everybody thought he could do … [it’s] a good comeback story.”
Left wing Aaron Volpatti also earned a two-year contract extension, signing for $1.15 million Wednesday. Volpatti, claimed off waivers Feb. 28, will make $575,000 in each of the next two seasons.
It took some time for the 27-year-old tough guy to become a regular in the lineup, something that made doubt creep into his mind. Playing time then led to a new contract.
“When I first got here, I didn’t play much the first two, three weeks, so I didn’t really think I’d be in this position,” Volpatti said. “And I’ve played well the last month or so, and here we are.”