The Washington Capitals locked up Nic Dowd to a three-year, $3.9 million extension on Sunday, keeping the affable fourth-line center in Washington until he is 35.
Dowd has become one of the Capitals’ most important players on the defensive side of the ice since first arriving in DC in 2018. Typically, NHL teams use their fourth lines to bring energy or protect prospects. Dowd along with lineys Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin are used almost exclusively in a shutdown role, matching up against other teams’ best lines and receiving an oversized amount of defensive-zone starts. Individually, Dowd has become the Capitals’ best center in the faceoff dot and a key member of the penalty kill. He’s coming off a career year in 2020-21 where he scored 11 goals in 56 games.
It’s clear why general manager Brian MacLellan wanted to keep Dowd around even if there are several top prospects like Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre deserving of bigger opportunity and full-time roster spots soon. None of those guys will ever be able to play defense like Dowd and Nic’s $1.3 million cap hit can be moved or buried in the minors if a worst-case scenario occurs (the Capitals would only be on the hook for ~$200k if they option him to Hershey at any point).
Now that we understand the team’s perspective, we must consider why Dowd, an upcoming UFA and coming off his best year pro, would want to come back to the Capitals without even testing the free-agent market? It’s possible he could have landed a bigger payday.
"This is a great spot to play. I've been around a couple other organizations – both good organizations – but this has definitely been home. My wife loves it, we love it."
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 15, 2021
Dowd explained his decision-making process during the Capitals-Penguins game on Sunday. The St. Cloud State alumnus is currently out of the lineup due to a second separate lower-body injury. He’s missed six of 15 games this season after not missing a game in 2020-21.
Here’s Dowd in his own words.
Last year was my best year individually and we kept our line together. Lavy gave us a bunch of responsibility. Just overall it was a great year. Obviously, a lot of things go into it, but I think this is a great spot to play. I’ve been around a couple of other organizations. Both good organizations, but this has definitely been home. My wife loves it. We love it.
A big part of this deal does take me to I’m 35. If you look around the league, you can start looking around at comparables of that age. I just felt I didn’t want to make that choice of ‘hey let’s just pick my family up for one year and move them somewhere else and then maybe look for another one-year deal at 36.’ Whatever you want to call it.
Also, I love this team. I love the guys. The core group is obviously wrapped up for a while. Lavy has a lot to do with it as well.
A lot of different factors went into it. I think free agency hasn’t been as friendly the last couple of years to a lot of people. It has been great for some players. I think a lot of the time, guys can look at it and some guys are very obvious. Then some guys sign great deals and it surprises you. Then some guys don’t sign great deals and that kind of surprises you. The risk assessment was our biggest decision-making process.
I started playing in the NHL when I was 25. You back that up four or five years, a lot of guys started when they were 20. I honestly feel like I’m getting into my 27-28 years of my career which a lot of guys hit their peak. That’s how I feel about my career right now. I think I’m a young 31-year-old. A lot of people don’t realize I’m that old until they see it and they’re kinda surprised by it. I think I have a lot left to give. I want to grow on last year and have an even better next three years.
Lavy, with any boss, you get a lot of responsibility and you get something you haven’t been given before, you ride with it and take that opportunity and turn it into success. I think he’s a good coach to play for. You know where you stand with him. You know what to expect. Within this organization, it’s easy to be successful here because there are so many people who want you to succeed. I think that was also a big factor in why I wanted to stay and be with this culture.
So in summary, Dowd’s decision revolved around:
The contract holds little risk for Washington and gives Dowd and his young family some security as they move forward. All in all, it’s a pretty dang good deal for everyone involved.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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