In the preseason, Alex Chiasson said he was surprised when the Calgary Flames did not extend a qualifying offer to him. The decision made the 27-year-old an unrestricted free agent despite scoring 12 goals last season.
Without a new deal, Chiasson settled on a professional tryout with the Capitals just six days before Washington opened training camp.
Chiasson’s gamble on himself paid off Wednesday when the forward signed a one-year, $660,000 deal with the Capitals.
Washington opens the season Thursday against the Ottawa Senators and Chiasson will be in the lineup.
“I’ll be the first one to say that it was a little bit of a long summer regarding that stuff, but I like my opportunity here,” Chiasson said. “For me this summer, obviously with what was going on, I still would train and prepare for the season. … I came into camp in good shape, and it’s been a great camp. I got to know the guys a little bit, and I’m really excited to earn a spot on the team here.”
With Tom Wilson’s suspension for four games, Chiasson will start the season on the Capitals’ third line on the right wing, next to Lars Eller and Brett Connolly. The 27-year-old had a productive preseason, chalking up a goal and an assist.
Coach Barry Trotz said Chiasson took advantage of his opportunities in preseason games and scrimmages.
“He had a pretty decent year last year,” Trotz said. “His goal is to have another good year so he can stand up and say, ‘Listen, I put up back-to-back years.’”
The Capitals have to make room for Chiasson since he wasn’t on the mandatory 23-man roster submitted to the league on Tuesday.
Washington will likely designate Chandler Stephenson to Hershey, where the team’s American Hockey League affiliate is located, if he clears waivers. Stephenson did not practice Wednesday.
When Wilson returns, Chiasson will initially move down to the fourth line. Trotz, however, has put Chiasson in different lineups throughout the preseason, including the team’s power play and penalty kill units. He’s likely to experiment during the season, too, considering the Capitals’ roster turnover from last year.
The Capitals are Chiasson’s fourth team in six seasons after being drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2009. He made his NHL debut in 2013.
He said his experience from the summer put a chip on his shoulder.
“In my situation that I’ve been in the last couple of years, changing teams and all that, it gets to a point where as a player, you want to prove that you belong” he said. “But I’ve learned from the past and I understand the league now. I know what it takes to be successful and it’s the same for me.”