U defenseman Schmidt signs with Washington

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2013 - 12:12 AM

Junior defenseman Nate Schmidt signed with the Capitals.


In two consecutive summers, Nate Schmidt watched the NHL draft and waited to hear his name called. Both times, he was disappointed when it didn’t happen — but the Gophers defenseman got his happy ending Tuesday when he signed a free-agent contract with the Washington Capitals.

Schmidt, a junior, became the first Gophers underclassman to announce his departure since the team was upset by Yale in its NCAA tournament opener last Friday. He could be joined soon by junior winger Zach Budish, expected to sign with the Nashville Predators.

The Gophers also could lose junior centers Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad. Haula’s adviser has contacted the Wild, which drafted him in the seventh round in 2009, but the sides have not reached agreement on a contract. Bjugstad was chosen in the first round, 19th overall, by Florida in the 2010 draft.

Schmidt, 21, built himself into a coveted free-agent prospect with two outstanding seasons for the Gophers. He accepted a two-year entry-level deal with the Capitals after being named to the all-WCHA first team. The league’s highest-scoring defenseman with 32 points — including a career-high nine goals — Schmidt was a mainstay on the Gophers’ power play and penalty kill.

“This wasn’t an easy decision to make,’’ Schmidt said. “But it is the right decision. I wouldn’t trade my experience at the University of Minnesota for anything, and I’m incredibly grateful to the team and staff.’’

Schmidt said last week that he was upset after not being drafted, but he came to appreciate his situation. By developing into a premier player in college, he could attract interest from multiple teams.

“I was like, ‘This is the coolest thing that ever happened,’ ’’ he said. “If I can do something with my career [at the U], I’m not locked into one place. I could have choices.’’

Gophers coach Don Lucia praised Schmidt for his contributions to the program. The St. Cloud native ends his Gophers career with 74 points in 96 games.

“Nate is a great example of someone who was overlooked in the draft, but worked hard on and off the ice to put himself in great position to become our top defenseman the last two years,’’ Lucia said in a statement.

Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel said Schmidt is smart, energetic and a quick study, but he still must gain muscle to be an effective pro. “He will have to be more physical at the next level,’’ Guentzel said. “The next step for him is getting that pro muscle, that pro durability.’’

Haula was the Gophers’ leading scorer this season with 51 points. Bjugstad and Budish, a second-round selection by Nashville in the 2009 draft, were tied for third in scoring with 36 points each.


Staff writer Michael Russo contributed to this report.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta - WP: E. Stults 4 FINAL
Detroit - LP: J. Chamberlain 2
Washington - LP: X. Cedeno 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Wacha 6
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 18
Baltimore 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Miami - LP: D. Haren 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: R. Montero 7
San Diego 6 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
San Francisco 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 8
Colorado 2 FINAL
Oakland 11
LA Angels - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 5
Cleveland 4 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Texas 7
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 2
Toronto 7 FINAL
Houston 4
Minnesota - LP: C. Johnson 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 14
Boston 116 FINAL
Charlotte 104
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
Philadelphia 111
Houston 96 FINAL
Toronto 99
Milwaukee 88 FINAL
Atlanta 101
Sacramento 83 FINAL
Memphis 97
Utah 104 FINAL
Minnesota 84
Phoenix 86 FINAL
Portland 109
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Montreal 3
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Calgary 5 FINAL
Dallas 3
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Chicago 4
Edmonton 4 FINAL
Colorado 1
Buffalo 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Loyola-Chicago 65
Dayton 70 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 91
(6) Tennessee 48 FINAL
(4) Maryland 58
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who are you rooting for in the NCAA Final Four?

Weekly Question