The Colorado Avalanche have bought out the final contract year for defenseman Brooks Orpik, three days after acquiring him from the Washington Capitals at the NHL draft.

The veteran defenseman, who won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and the Washington Capitals this past season, is now an unrestricted free agent.

Orpik, 37, was included in a trade that sent goalie Philipp Grubauer to the Avalanche in exchange for a 2018 NHL draft second-round pick, which was No. 47 overall. The Capitals needed to clear his $5.5 million cap hit from their books in order to re-sign top defenseman John Carlson, who agreed to an eight-year, $64-million contract on Sunday.

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic made it clear that Colorado had no intention of keeping Orpik on its young roster. “I owed him the respect to let him know that the plan is to buy him out and let him be a free agent,” Sakic said at the NHL draft. “I’m sure he’ll have a lot of teams that’ll want to add him to their group.”

According to Cap Friendly, the Avalanche will have $2.5 million in dead cap space next season and $1.5 million in 2019-20 for buying out the final year of the contract.

Orpik played 81 games last season for the Capitals, with 10 assists. He played in all 24 games and led the NHL postseason with a plus-17. Orpik was a valuable locker room leader for Washington, as both a steadying presence for veterans and a leader for the team’s younger players.

To that end, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan indicated after the trade that bringing Orpik back on a more manageable salary-cap number was a possibility for the defending champs. “He’s been a big part of our culture change and a big part of the room and how we go about things, how we go about business,” MacLellan said.

Overall, Orpik has played 982 games between Pittsburgh and Washington, with 16 goals and 169 assists for a plus-71.


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