Through the first five hours of free agency, the Washington Capitals made no major NHL signings. But shortly after 5 PM, the team announced that it had signed four depth players that will likely spend the majority of the 2021-22 season in the minor leagues.
The Capitals re-signed defenseman Lucas Johansen, their first-round pick from the 2016 NHL Draft, to a one-year, two-way contract ($700,000/$95,000). They then signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a one-year, two-way contract ($750,000/350,000) and Dylan McIlrath to a two-year, two-way contract (2021-22: $750,000/450,000; 2022-23: $750,000/475,000).
Goaltender Hunter Shepard, who showed promise with the South Carolina Stingrays and was sensational in three games with the Hershey Bears, signed to a two-year, two-way contract ($750,000/90,000). Shepard helped lead the Stingrays to the Kelly Cup Finals, registering a 7-6 record in the postseason.
NEWS | The Washington Capitals have re-signed Lucas Johansen and signed Irwin, McIlrath and Shepard to two-way contracts.https://t.co/FYkNtzrKL1
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 28, 2021
Irwin, 33, could end up being the player who has the best shot of seeing playing time in Washington. He’s a Laviolette guy, playing four of his nine NHL seasons under Lavy in Nashville.
Here’s the full press release from the Capitals:
Capitals Re-sign Defenseman Lucas Johansen, Sign Defensemen Matt Irwin and Dylan McIlrath and Goaltender Hunter Shepard
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-signed defenseman Lucas Johansen to a one-year, two-way contract ($750,000/$95,000), signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a one-year, two-way contract ($750,000/350,000), defenseman Dylan McIlrath to a two-year, two-way contract (2021-22: $750,000/450,000; 2022-23: $750,000/475,000) and goaltender Hunter Shepard to a two-year, two-way contract ($750,000/90,000), senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.
Johansen, 23, recorded two assists in five games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) last season. The 6’2”, 181-pound defenseman missed most of last season due to injury. The Vancouver native registered two assists in nine games during the 2019-20 season. Additionally, Johansen registered 14 points (3g, 11a) in 45 games with the Bears in 2018-19. In 133 career AHL games with Hershey, Johansen has recorded 45 points (9g, 36a). Prior to joining Hershey, Johansen helped Kelowna win the WHL championship in 2015 and earned 98 points (17 goals, 81 assists) in 202 career WHL games. Johansen was drafted in the first round, 28th overall, in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Irwin, 33, recorded two assists in 24 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season. The 6’2”, 189-pound defenseman ranked fourth among Sabres defensemen with 1:56 penalty kill minutes per game and 56 hits last season. The Victoria, B.C., native has recorded 84 points (22g, 62a) in 383 career games with the Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks. Irwin has played in 47 career playoff games and has recorded four points (1g, 3a). Irwin appeared in all 22 games during Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2016-17 season, where he recorded two assists. In addition to his NHL experience, Irwin has appeared in 249 games with the Worcester Sharks, Providence Bruins and Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League (AHL), recording 119 points (27g, 92a). Additionally, Irwin played two seasons at the University of Massachusetts from 2008-10, recording 42 points (14g, 28a) in 67 games. Irwin signed with San Jose as an undrafted free agent on March 23, 2010.
McIlrath, 29, recorded eight points (2g, 6a) in 29 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL) last season. The 6’4”, 235-pound defenseman ranked third among Griffins defensemen in points, while his 70 penalty minutes were tied for the most among all AHL defensemen last season. The Winnipeg native has played in 66 combined NHL games with the New York Rangers, the Florida Panthers and the Detroit Red Wings, recording five points (3g, 2a) and 121 penalty minutes. In 426 career AHL career games with Grand Rapids, Connecticut Whale, Hartford Wolf Pack and the Springfield Thunderbirds, McIlrath has recorded 90 points (23g, 67a) and 903 penalty minutes. Additionally, McIlrath won a Calder Cup in 2017 as a member of Grand Rapids, recording five assists in 19 games during the playoff run. McIlrath was selected by the Rangers in the first round, 10th overall, in the 2010 NHL Draft.
Shepard, 25, appeared in three games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) last season, finishing with a 3-0-0 record with one shutout, a 1.00 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage. Additionally, the 6’1”, 210-pound goaltender played in 21 games with the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), earning a 12-6-2 record with one shutout, a 2.55 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Additionally, the Coleraine, Minn., native earned Goaltender of the Week honors with South Carolina in the week of May 24-30 after going 3-0-0 with a shutout, a 1.33 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage. Shepard signed an AHL contract with Hershey on June 30, 2020 following a four year career with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the NCAA. In 119 games with the team – which included an NCAA-record 115 straight games from Oct. 21, 2017 to March 7, 2020 – Shepard finished with a 76-37-5 record, ranking first all-time in Bulldogs history in wins, goals-against average (1.94), save percentage (.922) and shutouts (17). Shepard won back-to-back NCAA Championships with the Bulldogs in 2018 and 2019, was twice named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Goaltender of the Year (2019 and 2020), earned First-Team All-American honors in 2019 and Second-Team All-American honors in 2020. Shepard finished his NCAA career as a three-time Mike Richter Award Finalist – given to the NCAA’s top goaltender – and a three-time All-NCHC selection. Prior to his collegiate career, Shepard appeared in 81 games with the Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) from 2014-15 through 2015-16. In 2015-16, Shepard earned North American Hockey League Goaltender of the Year honors, was named to the First All-Star Team and led the NAHL in games played (50), wins (34), and shutouts (8), while ranking second in goals against average (1.90).
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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