Photo: Sports Illustrated
Throughout the Capitals’ 42 years in existence, they’ve issued a total of 87 different jersey numbers to the hundreds of players that have suited up in the District. In NoVa Caps’ brand new feature, History Behind A Number, NoVa Caps’ writer Michael Fleetwood looks at a few notable players that have worn a given number. Today’s number: 44.
In the 42-year history of the Capitals, a total of nine players have worn No. 44. While many of them played just a season or two in the District, some have played for multiple years. Interestingly enough, of the nine players to don 44, all but two of them are defensemen.
Capitals Career: 1997-2001, 2006-2007
Background: A former tenth-round pick (249th overall in 1994) by the Capitals, Zednik spent the first four seasons of his NHL career in D.C. In his first extended taste of NHL action, in 1996-97, Zednik recorded two goals and one assist in 11 games. It would be during the Caps’ 1997-98 season in which Zednik would play a more crucial role to the Capitals’ blueline. During the regular season he scored 17 goals and added nine assists for 26 points in 65 games played to go along with a plus/minus rating of minus-2. During the Caps’ unprecedented run to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final, Zednik would see an increased role due to multiple injuries to key defensemen and in 17 playoff games recorded 10 points (seven goals, three assists) with an even plus/minus rating.
After showing potential during the 1997-98 season and playoffs, Zednik followed that up with a 17-point season the following year, only to improve to 19 goals, 16 assists, and 35 points in 69 games played in 1999-2000. That would prove to be his final full season in a Capitals sweater. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens the next season, after 62 games played (in which he scored 16 goals and had 35 points), along with Jan Bulis and the Capitals’ first-round draft pick (later used on Alexander Perezhogin) for Trevor Linden, Dainius Zubrus, and a fourth-round pick that originally belonged to the New Jersey Devils (later traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning). Zednik would finish the campaign with 19 goals and 44 points in 74 games played.
Zednik spent the next four seasons in Montreal during which he scored a career-high 31 goals and 50 points and finished his 322-game career in Montreal with 98 goals, 85 assists, and 183 points. He was then traded back to the Caps in July 2006 for the Capitals’ third-round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (later used on Olivier Fortiet). His second stint in Washington did not last long, as he was traded the next February to the New York Islanders for the team’s second-round pick (later used on Theo Ruth, who would be traded to acquire Sergei Fedorov) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After 10 games on Long Island, Zednik signed a contract with the Florida Panthers with whom he would finish up his career after the 2008-09 season. In 289 career games as a Capital, Zednik recorded 69 goals and 65 assists for 134 points and minus-1 rating.
Capitals Career: 2003-2008
Background: The 12th overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Steve Eminger was drafted with the hope he could become a difference-maker for the Caps on the backend. However, he failed to live up to his pedigree. Eminger first broke into the NHL during the 2002-03 season, where he recorded two assists in 17 games. His role would increase the following season, as he played 65 games for the Caps (at the time he wore a different number), managing only four assists and a minus-11 rating. Eminger’s third full season in a Capitals uniform was much more productive, as he scored five goals and added 13 assists for 18 points in 66 games played. He averaged 21:21 of ice time a night.
His production would continue to climb the following season, as he would post a similar 17-point season (one goal, 16 assists) in 68 games played. Eminger’s final full season with the Capitals was a highly unimpressive one, as he recorded a meager two assists in just 20 games played along with a minus-4 rating. Following the season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers along with the Caps’ third-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (later used on Jacob Deserres) for Philadelphia’s first-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (the Caps would later go on to select John Carlson, who remains an important component of the Capitals’s blueline). Eminger would become something of a journeyman following the trade, as he was dealt just several months later to the Anaheim Ducks and then to the Florida Panthers. Following that he re-signed with the Ducks in free agency before being traded to the New York Rangers, where he would play for three seasons before signing a deal with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Following that he had short stints with the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals (now an ECHL team) and Providence Bruins, then signed a Professional Tryout Offer with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters (now the Cleveland Monsters) last January. Eminger’s greatest “success” came in 212 games as a Capital, scoring six goals and adding 37 assists for 43 points.
Capitals Career: 2011
Background: One of a number of veteran trade deadline acquisitions by former Capitals General Manager George McPhee, Arnott was acquired on February 28, 2011, from the New Jersey Devils for center David Steckel and the Caps’ second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (later traded to the Minnesota Wild).
Already 36-years old when the Caps acquired him, Arnott was brought in with the hopes a strong veteran presence could help the Capitals win the Stanley Cup. Arnott’s short stint in the District was fairly productive, as he recorded seven points (four goals, three assists) in 11 regular season games and followed that up with a one-goal, six-point performance in nine playoff games played in a Caps sweater. Despite his productive finish to the season, the Capitals allowed Arnott to walk in the offseason, where he would play one final season with the St. Louis Blues before retiring after 18 NHL seasons (that included stops in Nashville, New Jersey, Edmonton, and Dallas).
Brooks Orpik (above)
Capitals Career: 2014-Present
Background: One of two major free agent signings by the Capitals in the summer of 2014, Brooks Orpik is the latest Capital to don the double four. While his five-year, $27.5 million contract is still a topic of debate amongst fans, Orpik has brought a steadying, physical presence to the blueline that the Caps had been lacking for many years.
Originally a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Orpik spent 11 years in the Black and Gold helping the Pens to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009 before signing his contract with the Caps. Named an alternate captain in his first season in Capitals red, Orpik has been helpful in mentoring the Capitals’ young defensemen such as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt, the latter with whom he played exceptionally well this past season. In his first three seasons as a Capital, Orpik recorded three goals and 43 points in 198 games played, while posting a plus/minus rating of plus-48, while averaging 19:47 of ice time and a Corsi rating of 50.4.
While Orpik has begun to slow down at nearly 37-years old and his cap hit of $5.5 million could cause problems financially for the Capitals, he’s still a reliable veteran defenseman and he knows what it takes to win it all, something the Capitals have yet to do.
By Michael Fleetwood