Washington Capitals’ General Manager George McPhee and team have made their first roster move of the 2012-2013 season, signing former Toronto Maple Leafs winger Joey Crabb to a one year $950,000 contract Monday.
Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Crabb was eager to ply his trade against the United States’ top amateur players, moving from home as a sixteen year old to join the United States National Team Development Program. Now at age twenty nine Crabb is coming off his first full season in the NHL, suiting up for 67 games with the Maple Leafs. The tenacious right handed right winger registered eleven goals and fifteen assists in the season, coupling his twenty six points with a fairly responsible thirty three penalty minutes. Toronto did have Crabb playing with their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies for nine games, but his fifteen points (7G 8A) neccesitated a call-up.
Crabb will enter Capitals’ camp in September familair with another bottom six forward on the team, Matt Hendricks. Both versatile forwards played their college hockey in the WCHA, Crabb with Colorado College and Hendricks with St. Cloud State. Fellow bottom six forward Jay Beagle also competed in the WCHA, skating for the University of Alaska, Anchorage Seawolves for two years; Beagle a bit younger than Crabb and Hendricks. All three will be competing for similar jobs to occupy limited spots, but an all WCHA fourth line (as pointed out by Nate Ewell) would be pretty cool to see. All three should be able to share some laughs and comraderie looking back at their younger years as professional teammates heading towards 2013, despite the roster cuts that will be right around the corner.
“When everybody’s happy and playing well he’ll likely be on the fourth line and killing penalties, but when the team is in search of different looks he’ll be able to step into many different roles. As he proved in Toronto, he’s versatile and can move up and down the lineup – wherever he’s needed” — Kevin Epp, Crabb’s agent.
McPhee was certainly a fan of Crabb’s reach (6’1″) and work ethic, the Capitals’ GM a big fan of large players and understanding the importance of building a roster of players looking to make a mark. A player as versatile as Crabb across the ice and proficient at defending down a man was a no brainer for the Capitals’ brass, the signing coming in cheap was just icing on the cake. To ink a player with something to prove at under a million dollars, for a single year, is a gamble McPhee and Caps Nation are happy to bet on.
At 29 years old Crabb has cut his teeth across all of the United States’ hockey ranks; the NAHL, the USHL, the WCHA, the AHL, and now hopefully permanent in the NHL. Like many of the Capitals’ Draft Picks in 2012 Crabb also honed his skills for the USNTDP, playing with the red, white, and blue until he was eighteen. A strong team player the winger will look to find himself a spot on the Capitals’ third or fourth line, a job he should succeed in winning with his play away from the puck in all three zones, along with potential scoring upside.
Monday’s deal improves the Capitals’ penalty killing core and increases competition at training camp for a spot on the checking and energy lines. See Crabb above resembling former Capitals’ penalty killing stalwart Boyd Gordon in skatng stride and positioning, forcing the power play unit to make risky passes.
McPhee’s calculated move improves the team, if not solving all of their issues. Having a handy winger who has been through it all on busses across North America makes the Capitals tougher and more blue collar, areas the franchise has been working on for the past few years.
If anything, Capitals fans across the world can appreciate Crabb for (prior actions while wearing the Maple Leaf) landing a couple good punches on Washington’s former whipping boy, defenseman Joe Corvo.