In late June, the Capitals issued qualifying offers to nine of their restricted free agents, thereby retaining the negotiating rights to those players. On Tuesday, two of those players signed contracts for the 2007-08 season. Center Brian Sutherby and Steve Eminger have both inked contracts for the ’07-08 campaign.
Sutherby signed a one-year deal and Eminger accepted the Capitals’ qualifying offer from last month, also signing a one-year pact.
Both Sutherby and Eminger are former first-round Entry Draft choices of the Capitals. Washington chose Sutherby in the first round (26th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and tabbed Eminger two years later with the 12th overall selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Sutherby had seven goals and 17 points in 69 games for the Capitals in 2006-07. He skated an average of 13:41 per night. Sutherby’s best season was in 2005-06 when he totaled 14 goals and 30 points in 76 games with Washington. In 254 career NHL games, he has totaled 25 goals, 60 points and 274 penalty minutes.
Eminger picked up a goal and 17 points in 68 games with the Caps last season, averaging 18:56 per night in the process. He was fourth on the team with 83 blocked shots. He also enjoyed his best NHL season in 2005-06, totaling five goals and 18 points in 66 games. Eminger averaged 21:21 per night in 2005-06. He has six goals, 41 points and 213 penalty minutes in his 192 NHL games.
Both players will be among crowded fields of contestants at their respective positions when training camp gets underway in mid-September. Sutherby, Boyd Gordon, Dave Steckel, Brooks Laich
and perhaps a dark horse candidate or two will be vying for the pivot spots on Washington’s third and fourth forward lines. One or two of those natural centers could be spending some time on the wing, and Sutherby did play left wing on occasion last season.
Eminger is one of nine or 10 candidates who will battle it out for the top six defense spots in the District this fall. With about two dozen defensemen in the system, the competition for those spots figures to be spirited as well. It’s also possible that dark horse candidates could emerge to thicken the battle for blueline spots.
With the signings of Sutherby and Eminger, Washington now has seven remaining restricted free agents to get under contract. Two of those seven – center Brooks Laich
and defenseman Milan Jurcina – have opted for arbitration. Laich’s case will be heard on July 23 and Jurcina’s on July 30.
Discussions are ongoing with the team’s other five restricted free agents, defensemen John Erskine
and Jamie Hunt and forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Jakub Klepis and Dave Steckel.