The Washington Capitals lost one defenseman possibly for the season, so they brought back another one.
Washington re-signed Brenden Dillon to a $15.6 million, four-year contract Tuesday, an announcement that came minutes after saying Michal Kempny would miss six to eight months following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. Dillon will count $3.9 million against the salary cap through the 2023-24 season.
“I think it is a great fit,” Dillon said. “For the way that the culture is built here in Washington, we expect to win. We expect to have success. I think with the players that we have and the mindset that most of us all have, we’re all excited already to get going for next year to get back to the winning ways.”
Like Kempny in 2018 when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, Dillon fit in seamlessly after he was acquired at the trade deadline. As much as they are up against the flat, $81.5 million salary cap, the Capitals could use long-term injury relief with Kempny to keep Dillon.
Given the NHL’s new target date to start next season Jan. 1, Kempny could miss the entire regular season.
The 30-year-old was injured during training in his native Czech Republic. After being a part of the Cup-winning team, Kempny missed the 2019 playoffs and start of last season with a torn left hamstring.
“I know how hard Kemper worked to get back from that hamstring,” Dillon said. “It’s just super, super unfortunate to have something serious like that happen again.”
Washington acquired Dillon, 29, from San Jose in February for a 2020 second- and 2021 third-round pick. The Canadian defenseman averaged 22 minutes of ice time during the postseason for the Capitals, who wanted to bring him back despite a tough cap situation.
They’re expected to lose goaltender Braden Holtby in free agency.
Dillion figures to be part of a top four with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and either Jonas Siegenthaler or Nick Jensen. If Carlson and Orlov are the skill and offense, Dillon is the muscle, something the Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning showed is still necessary to win in the playoffs.
“That was something (the Lightning) recognized and they brought in some pieces to the skill that they had,” Dillon said. “When you just look at the Washington Capitals, you look at the roster and the makeup of the team, and not only are we super skilled and super talented, but we are big, we are made for playoff hockey. We like to play a physical, hard brand of game.”