The first big offseason news has come, and it involves the return of two true impact players to the organization.
The Capitals have re-signed defenseman Aaron Ness to a two-year, two-way contract and have also re-signed forward Paul Carey to a one-year, two-way contract – both starting with the 2016-17 season.
I could not contain my excitement when I first heard that these were potential signings that could have happened as early as this week. Sure enough, it has come to fruition.
Let’s start with Carey – my top pick all the way back in pre-season to have a successful year in Hershey. Had it not been for a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the lineup for good beginning in February, things sure as heck would have been much different – for the better. The guy still managed to rack up 31 points (13-18-31), which included three game-winners – one in overtime against the Providence Bruins, a game which he practically won single-handedly on November 25 by scoring the regulation goal as well.
The guy has grit. He has a heck of a shot. And he has the skill to come out of a battle along the boards with the puck just about all the time. He was having success on a power play that turned into a headache following his absence.
He was certainly missed. He will be a veteran after this season – in fact he will be a vet exempt after opening night – so this signing was absolutely key. I’m sure Carey could have shopped around. A non-veteran winger with skill like his had to have been sought after. But he did all of his rehabilitation here. He got to know the doctors so well after his surgery. I’m sure that had to be a key in his decision-making process. We will catch up with Carey later in the summer to see how things are going for his return to the lineup.
Now, Ness. If you haven’t had the chance to meet this guy in person, you’re missing out on one of the most outgoing personalities out there. The first thing I think about when someone brings up his name? He loves to win, but he HATES to lose. Go back and look at the bench celebration following Travis Boyd’s overtime series-clincher against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 15. You’ll see a jubilant Ness hugging rookie Tyler Lewington as if to say “This is what it’s all about!”.
Following the Connor Carrick trade, Ness’s power play role was changed around a bit. I would love to see him take that point “quarterback” role next season, but that’s obviously why I’m on radio and not coaching. Regardless of where he goes or with whom he plays on defense, he will be an asset. He and Lewington emerged as the best defense pair in the Calder Cup Finals – with Christian Djoos and Erik Burgdoerfer, in my opinion, a close second.
I would also believe that he is a candidate to wear a letter on his jersey next season. At times, he donned the “A”, but only when more than one of Mike Moore, Zach Sill or Chris Boruque weren’t in the lineup.
He is a leader on and off the ice, and probably will be the veteran leader on the Hershey blue line – and may not be alone. RFA Ryan Stanton could still get a qualifying offer and return. Time will tell. UFA Mike Moore didn’t get much playing time down the stretch and I’m not sure of his status as of now.
Oh yes – Ness’s contract extends through 2017-18 as well.
YES for Ness. Hurray for Carey. I already can’t wait until October.