#38 Jack Hillen in 2009
(Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals announced the signing of unrestricted free agent defenseman Jack Hillen to a 1-year, $650,000 contract. Hillen, 26, is entering his fifth full season in the NHL; he spent last season in Nashville after starting his career with the New York Islanders. The Minnesota native has played in 230 career NHL games, posting 10 goals, 56 points, a -12 rating, and, very important for George McPhee, only 129 penalty minutes.
Last season, Hillen appeared in 55 games for the Predators, posting 2 goals, 6 points, a +6 rating, and 20 PIM. He averaged 14 minutes of ice time per night, and he was Nashville’s #7 defenseman by total ice time. The 5′ 10, 190 lb defender also appeared in two of Nashville’s playoff games last season, posting a +1 rating and 2 PIM.
Last season was a big step down for Hillen, who was the New York Islanders’ #4 defenseman by total ice time in 2010-11 (#3 in scoring) and #2 in ice time and scoring in 2009-10. Hillen posted seasons of 21 and 22 points, including some powerplay contributions, before moving off Long Island last summer.
Hillen isn’t overly physical, but he is a big shot-blocker who averages more takeaways than giveaways. He is very mobile and has a good first pass, but his size limits his ability to contain large forwards. Unless the Capitals move a defenseman, Hillen would slot in as the Capitals #6 or #7 defenseman next season.
Of course, Hillen’s big Capitals memory came January 26, 2010, when he took an Ovechkin slapshot to the jaw, forcing him to miss over a month of action.
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