When the Capitals signed a forward by the name of Matt Bradley in the summer of 2005, little attention was given to the move. Six years later, Bradley left as one of the most-beloved Capitals in recent memory. Bradley’s tenacious, no-nonsense style of play endeared him to fans, and when the decision to let him walk in free agency was made, it was the end of a remarkable Capitals career.
Drafted in the fourth-round (102nd overall) in 1996 by the San Jose Sharks, Bradley spent three seasons in the Sharks organization before he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing just one season in Pittsburgh before signing with Washington. While he was never an offensively-gifted player, Bradley played a checking-line role, never afraid to defend his teammates if necessary; including AlexOvechkin.
Bradley never reached 30 points in any of his seasons with the Capitals, but what he lacked in offense, he made up for with physicality. Bradley fearlessly threw his weight around, and in doing so, often created scoring chances for his teammates. But Bradley was viewed highly by former coach Bruce Boudreau, and his leadership was well-valued. Bradley’s contributions off the ice were far more meaningful than the ones he made on the ice. Bradley was often involved with the Capitals’ visits to local schools and was a big participant in the Caps Courage program, as well as other charitable efforts made by the Capitals.
In the summer of 2011, Bradley, along with longtime teammate Boyd Gordon, were allowed to walk in free agency, much to the chagrin of Caps faithful. To replace them, former Caps GM George McPhee signed right-winger Joel Ward, who would become an integral part of the team in his four-year contract. But Bradley’s loss was a big one, considering that his leadership and experience was important to the Caps locker room. Bradley signed a one-year contract with the Florida Panthers, joining former teammate Tomas Fleischmann. However, Bradley played just 45 games and posting eight points before the Panthers placed him on waivers and released him. After this, Bradley failed to latch onto an NHL team and signed with Finnish club TuTo, playing just one game before calling it a career.
The way his career ended was just unfair for the longtime Capital. Now a member of the team’s scouting department, Bradley is once again a member of the team he helped win for so long.
[Footnote: Matt Bradley was hired by the Capitals as a part time scout for the club this season]
By Michael Fleetwood