Ethan Bear is back in the NHL following shoulder surgery after signing a two-year contract with the Washington Capitals.
General manager Brian MacLellan announced the long-expected deal with the defenseman Thursday, just over a week since Bear joined the Capitals for practice and they confirmed their intent to sign him. The contract is worth a pro-rated $4.125 million and carries a salary cap hit of $2.0625 million for the rest of this season and the 2024-25 season.
“Being fully healthy now and putting the injury behind him, (he) could be a good fit for the organization,” coach Spencer Carbery said recently. “(He is) someone, I think, that can potentially, if all goes well, bring an added punch to our back end, especially offensively.”
Bear, who was injured representing Canada at the world championships last spring, said he feels good and chose Washington in part because the team was not rushing him back into game action. It’s unclear when he might make his season debut.
“Honestly felt like they really cared a lot and they want me here instead of needing me,” Bear said after joining the Capitals for their morning skate on Dec. 20. “I can kind of get my legs under me, get thinking quick again to learn the system and kind of get to learn everyone’s tendencies instead of just kind of getting tossed into the fire, so I really appreciate that.”
The 26-year-old is joining his fourth NHL organization after starting with Edmonton and playing one-season stints with Carolina and Vancouver. The Canucks did not tender Bear a restricted free agent offer last summer following the injury, relinquishing his rights and freeing him to sign with any team.
He chose the Capitals, one of the league’s oldest teams, over several interested suitors. Washington is in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference more than a third of the way through the season.
“It’s a good group of guys,” Bear said. “(They) have a really good culture here where it’s a good mix. Everyone feels like they’re pulling their weight; everyone’s doing their job.”
Bear gives the Capitals extra depth on the blue line with a right-handed shot who has averaged nearly 19 minutes a game throughout his career. Bear has 63 points in 259 regular-season and playoff games.
“It just gives us, I feel like, a young player that’s still just scratching the surface,” Carbery said.
The Capitals are also expected to soon get a boost up front with the season debut of winger Max Pacioretty, who is coming off re-tearing his right Achilles tendon in January. They next play at the New York Islanders on Friday.
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