Brenden Dillon’s time in the U.S. capital will continue.
The Surrey-raised NHLer re-signed with Washington Capitals on Tuesday (Oct. 6), just days before his first real kick at free agency, in a four-year deal with an average annual value of $3.9 million.
Last season the New Westminster-born Dillon recorded 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 69 games with the Capitals and, before he was moved at the league’s trade deadline, the San Jose Sharks.
News of Dillon’s contract is posted on nhl.com, along with a 13-minute video interview.
“I think it definitely was a relief to get it done, with the way of the world right now, with so much uncertainty – not just in the hockey world but the world in general,” Dillon, a defenseman, told the Now-Leader on Wednesday (Oct. 7).
“We don’t have an official start date for next season, and there’s some talk about teams having some internal caps, with some weird things going on. You know, as a player you work towards free agency and start to look at other cities and teams, but I think ultimately that my time in Washington, from the trade last season, I got to learn about the organization, how the guys are, the city, the fan base, and it ticked every box for me, so I’m very happy to be here.”
Undrafted, Dillon has made the most of his 598 games in the NHL, starting with Dallas Stars, the team that signed him as a free agent in 2011. He has 114 career points (22 goals, 92 assists).
“It’s definitely a mindset I’ve had in my career, a chip on my shoulder to stick around,” Dillon said in a phone interview. “My parents gave me every opportunity to succeed. I mean, I spent a year in Hope and didn’t have my driver’s license yet, so you can imagine the miles they were tacking on, driving me to games and everywhere.
“Ultimately, I didn’t get drafted in the Western league (WHL) or the NHL draft, and I had a lot of, you could say, heartache, before there were smiles and happiness,” Dillon continued. “Even to this day, when I’m working out in the summer or on the ice, I always want to continue to improve, to prove people wrong, those who doubted me as a player. I think that has helped me, and I would tell every kid who wasn’t drafted to just keep working towards your dreams.”
In less than half a season with the Caps, Dillon ranked third on the team in time on ice per game (20:02) and fifth in penalty kill time per game (2:40). Also, he ranked fifth on the team in hits (16) and tied for 10th in blocked shots (seven).
During the NHL’s recent “bubble” playoffs, he notched one assist and eight penalty minutes in eight games with the Capitals.
“After the playoffs,” Dillon explained, “I had to fly back to San Jose to get my place all cleaned up there, then I made my way back up the coast, through all the fires and everything, and did my quarantine in Kelowna because I didn’t want to put anybody at risk. After that I made my way down to Surrey for a couple of weeks, so that was nice to be with family before I got all set up downtown (Vancouver).”
During the playoffs, Dillon and the Caps stayed in a Toronto hotel and played games at Scotiabank Arena.
“The bubble was a very unique situation, and playoff hockey with nobody cheering you on wasn’t ideal by any means, but we were able to finish the season and ultimately congrats to Tampa Bay,” Dillon said.
“It was weird being in the hotel with the team you’re battling the next day, and it just had the one restaurant. Door Dash was a hot commodity, as you can imagine.… It was a weird scenario but they did a great job, with safety the first concern, and I saw something that there were no positive tests at all, so that was amazing, and everybody felt safe. To be playing hockey in summer like that was definitely a bit weird, but we’re hoping to get through this and only have to do that once.”
The league and players’ association have targeted Jan. 1 for the start of the 2020-21 season.
Said Dillon: “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we want fans in the stands, everybody does, because that’s what makes hockey work.”