Defenseman Nate Schmidt signed a six-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $5.95 million with the Vegas Golden Knights, the team announced on Thursday morning. Schmidt, 27, could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The defenseman, who was handed a 20-game suspension by the NHL for substance abuse, was selected as Vegas’ pick from the Washington Capitals in the 2017 NHL expansion draft. He will be eligible to return from his suspension on November 18.
Schmidt has been playing in Austria to start the season and will likely return to Vegas when he’s eligible to play.
The Capitals signed Schmidt as an undrafted free agent in 2013. In his career as Capital, the defenseman tallied eight goals, 44 points, and a +36 rating in 200 games. In 21 career playoff games with the team, Schmidt recorded a goal, five points, and a +3 rating. He was benched at the start of the 2017 playoffs for the Capitals, but once Karl Alzner got hurt, Schmidt got a chance and seized the opportunity. Alzner was scratched for a few games after he was healthy because Schmidt was playing so well. When Alzner returned, the team kept Schmidt in the lineup and used seven defensemen.
Last season, Schmidt recorded a career-high five goals, 31 points, and a +19 rating in 76 games with the Golden Knights last season and three goals, seven points, and a +7 rating in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Schmidt also led the Golden Knights in ice time last season, playing over 22 minutes a game. He also racked up a goal and an even rating in the Stanley Cup Final against the Capitals.
With the new contract, Schmidt is currently the highest paid player on the Golden Knights for 2019-20. However, that could change with center William Karlsson, who led Vegas with 43 goals and 78 points last season and has eight points in eight games for Vegas this year, up for a new contract as a restricted free agent this upcoming summer.
The Capitals tried to keep Schmidt from going to Vegas during the expansion draft but the two sides could not reach a deal. Schmidt would have the second-highest cap hit among Capitals defensemen next year behind only John Carlson ($8 million).
By Harrison Brown