It will be a bittersweet night at Capital One Arena as former Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen returns to the District for the first time after being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Radko Gudas back in June. In this piece, NoVa Caps recollects and pays tribute to the former Washington blueliner known most commonly as “Nisky”.
The Virginia, Minnesota, native was drafted in 2005, 1st Round (28th overall) by the Dallas Stars. He made his NHL debut on October 3, 2007, the Stars’ Home Opener against the Colorado Avalanche. A few weeks later, Niskanen scored his first NHL goal against the San Jose Sharks on October 29, 2007.
After four and a half seasons in Dallas, Niskanen was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2010-11 season, where he finished with a career-high in goals (10) and assists (36) in the final year of his contract.
Niskanen signed a seven-year, $40.25 million contract with the Capitals in the summer of 2014. He played for five seasons in the nation’s capital, recording 29 goals, 127 assists, and 156 points total in 390 games played. He was a top-four defenseman averaging 22:46 of ice time.
Photo: Patrick McDermott/ NHLI via Getty Images
In the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup run, Niskanen played a key role in helping the team earn its first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history. He picked up nine points in the 24 postseason games and averaged just over 25 minutes on the ice.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
He recorded 25 points (8 goals) in the 2018-19 season and two assists in seven playoff games before Washington fell 4-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes in double overtime. Even though he had two years left on his contract, Niskanen was acquired by the Flyers in exchange for Gudas. He has 323 points (64 goals, 259 assists) in 881 NHL games with the Stars, Penguins, and Capitals.
Niskanen’s contributions off the ice will always be remembered by Capitals fans. His polite, good-hearted attitude was shown in media interviews, interactions with fans, and community activities.
Even though we’ll see him on the ice dressed in orange and black tonight, we are grateful for the unforgettable moments and affects Niskanen had on the organization, the city, and the fans.
“It [going back] is certainly going to be something,″ Niskanen told Pennsylvania newspaper, The Intelligencer. “A lot of good memories there. Enjoyed my time there. I had a ton of fun. It will be weird being on the other side.″
The Capitals like to honor former players with a moment of recognition and a tribute video. Niskanen added, “I’m going to do my best to just focus on a win. If they do one of those [tributes], I’ll deal with it the best I can in the moment.″
Thank you, Nisky!!
By Della Young