Washington claimed Walker off waivers from Edmonton on Wednesday and, in a bit of an unexpected twist, he will report to the Caps, not the minor league Hershey Bears.
The NHL’s annual holiday roster freeze prevented the team from sending Walker directly to the American Hockey League. The freeze began Tuesday and expires Dec. 28. Once the freeze is lifted, the Caps will reevaluate Walker’s situation.
Whatever ultimately happens, a whole lot of Caps supporters will happily welcome the left wing back to the organization.
Although Walker only appeared in seven games for the Caps this season, he quickly established himself as a fan favorite for a couple of reasons: the 5-foot-9, 186-pounder plays with a ton of energy and enthusiasm and, of course, the novelty of the whole thing. On Oct. 7 at Capital One Arena, Walker, to much fanfare, became the first Australian to suit up for an NHL game.
Despite his popularity with folks in the stands, the coaching staff was not as enamored with Walker. The 23-year-old scored in his debut but never was able to gain a foothold in Coach Barry Trotz’s lineup and, on Nov. 30, the team placed Walker on waivers with the intention of sending him to Hershey to get some much needed playing time.
Just one problem: he didn’t clear.
Walker was claimed by Edmonton. He thanked the Caps on social media for the opportunity that he was given here and was hopeful of getting his NHL career back on track with the Oilers.
But that didn’t happen, either.
Walker saw only limited action in two games with the Oilers, and on Tuesday he was placed back on waivers—opening the door for Washington to reclaim their 2014 third round pick, which they did.
It’s not immediately clear where—or even if—Walker fits into the Capitals’ immediate plans. The team already has 13 healthy forwards and on Tuesday had to scratch veteran Devante Smith-Pelly to accommodate the return of T.J. Oshie from injury. It should also be noted that the team is pressed up against the salary cap ceiling and Trotz prefers to keep only one extra forward, not two.
But we do know this much: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan thought highly enough of Walker to bring the prospect back for another shot. What Walker does with it, though, is up to him.