Free agent is expected to play on fourth line
Joey Crabb always believed he could play in the NHL. He just needed the opportunity.
That first legitimate chance finally came halfway through the 2010-11 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Crabb showed well there and even better this past season with a career-best 11-goal campaign despite limited ice time. That was enough for the Capitals, who signed the right wing to a one-year, $900,500 contract Sunday.
Crabb provides depth as a bottom-six forward, which Washington will need if it intends to replace skilled winger Alexander Semin with internal candidates as general manager George McPhee claims. Crabb is expected to play on the fourth line with center Jay Beagle, who remains a restricted free agent, and left wing Matt Hendricks.
"I'm just excited to get in there and get on a team with a real good chance to win and high expectations for that," Crabb said. "I haven't really played on teams in the past that had this high of expectations for winning."
The Maple Leafs have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the last seven seasons -- though they didn't exactly make a strong push to keep Crabb around at his asking price. After four years of college hockey at Colorado College and parts of five seasons spent in the minors, Crabb signed a one-way contract with the Caps, which means he will make the same money even if he returns to the minors next season. That's a milestone for a player who at age 29 had never signed a one-way deal before. In that way, his career arc mirrors that of Hendricks, who made his own NHL debut at 27 with Colorado and at 31 has morphed into a solid role player for Washington.
"What we're hoping for is we get a well-rounded player that can play well with and without the puck in that kind of role," Caps general manager George McPhee said. "What you want is four lines that can play, and I think we have that right now."
Crabb, an Anchorage, Alaska, native, was drafted in the seventh round in 2002 by the New York Rangers and made his NHL debut with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008-09. He has 18 goals in 144 NHL games and was one of Toronto's better penalty-killing forwards. An excellent skater, Crabb played the third-most minutes on the penalty kill there.
"I obviously like to get around the ice and take the body and create energy and get in on the forecheck," Crabb said. "I have some offensive skills a little bit, too, that I like to chip in with here and there. I really pride myself on penalty killing, and I think there's a few guys like that on Washington already. It seems like it should be a good fit."