Only his parents know if Nate Schmidt was born with a smile on his face, but even on a conference call from his home in St. Cloud, Minn., it was clear the Capitals’ 23-year-old defenseman is ecstatic about signing a one-way, two-year $1.625 contract extension.
Here’s a transcript of Wednesday’s conference call:
On his feelings:
It’s been a great day, an awesome couple days. I couldn’t be happier.
On the negotiating process:
I’ll first start out with I’m sorry my voice is a little gone. I’m helping to coach the selective team in Minnesota and I get just as fired up as the kids do, so my voice is going a little bit. But anyways, it was an awesome process for me. After the season, a couple weeks after, you start negotiating and it felt good they had that confidence in me and they wanted to reward me with what they think I can be and how much they feel I can help this team in future years and I’m just so excited to be back. It’s such an awesome organization for me to be a part of. Everything I’ve done has been with Washington and I couldn’t be more excited to get this thing done and really focus on my training and get back to working on the things to get me better for the coming season.
On the importance of getting a one-way contract, which will pay him $750,000 next season and $875,000 in 2016-17:
You know what? It was extremely important on both sides to get something we both felt comfortable with. When we first started it was a mutual feeling to have something along those lines. There wasn’t a whole lot of bust it down and get real nitty gritty. Like I said, I wanted to be back in the worst way and be able to help contribute to a team that, we’re going to have a great chance next year. We set the building blocks this year and I set the building blocks in my career the last two years and it’s time to start building off of those and start making it concrete and cement myself into this league and into this lineup and I think that’s the way they felt as well. It’s ecstatic for me to feel this way, to have them have the confidence in me that I can go out there and perform at a high level each and every night and that’s what this shows and I just can’t wait to try to deliver on this. I probably had one of my best workouts of the summer yesterday. So it was awesome, a great feeling.
On his exit interviews and what the Capitals coaching staff asked of him for next season:
I talked to [Capitals assistant coach] Todd [Reirden] before I went back down to Hershey for Game 6 of the playoffs and Reirds just reiterated the fact that I made big strides this year but I have to build off the foundation that he laid out for me and the plan we have for me to be even better and more effective at being a point producer and joining rushes and being more refined in my game. It was a little bit of a briefing and in my meeting with Hershey after the year was over we talked mostly about the team. We hoped this day would come, that I would have the opportunity to move up to this lineup in this league,
On if he has the experience to make him an everyday player in the NHL:
I really think this is my time to shine and I think I’m gong to deliver any way the team needs me to. Whatever way it takes us to win, I feel like I can provide a spark to us and be a part of that lineup. Whatever I may lack in experience with 50-odd [NHL] games, we have a tremendous core of guys that are back there and a system of support from the top down that can help guys like myself and Andre [Burakovsky] and Kuzy [Evgeny Kuznetsov]. The reason these guys played so well this year is because the team and the bond we have in the locker room really helps us get through those tougher times that sometimes young players go through.
On his evaluation of a season that began with 31 straight games with the Capitals, followed by being a healthy scratch for seven of eight games, a broken shoulder blade in a rehab assignment with the Hershey Bears that sidelined him for six weeks, and a seven-game return to the Caps but no action in the playoffs:
When I look back with an objective view, the way I saw it I had a chance to be a part of this team each and every game. Things happen. The injury happened and it was kind of a downward spiral there for a little bit. That’s not the way we wanted things to happen but everything happens for a reason. I talked with Trotzy [Barry Trotz] right after I got hurt and he reiterated the fact that ‘Hey, you’re going to be a part of our team. You’re going to get back from this injury and keep doing the work and be ready if need be at the end of the year.’ It was tough to get my legs back after the injury, but the playoffs were great. I had a pretty dynamic playoff [4 goals, 5 assist in 8 playoff games with the Bears] that hopefully solidified the fact I’m moving on from the league and trying to make myself a full-time NHL player.
On his summer plans:
I am here coaching the Minnesota selective team camp this week, and then I work out at the University of Minnesota. I have a place in Minneapolis in the summer where I train. All the alumi guys come back and we can get ice.
On his journey from Minnesota, where he spent three years, to the NHL:
The vision of being able to go from high school to junior to college to the NHL all in one fell swoop, it’s everybody’s dream and mine as well, but I can’t take anything away from the time I played in the American League because it really helped me become the player I am right now. I really got to work on the things that maybe you don’t get to work on at the NHL level – power play time, stuff like that. So that when you gt into the lineup in Washington you’re ready to play and ready to handle those types of situations. Guys have had a lot tougher road than I’ve had. It’s been a little bit of a grind with the injuries I’ve battled, but right now I’m making sure I’m ready for next season. I’ve learned nothing is ever given, You have to earn everything they give you, ice time, power play time, whatever it may be, You’ve got to be consistent and be mentally prepared for whenever they call your number.
On the influence of the Capitals’ veteran blue liners:
I don’t think I can say enough great things about how I got along with this group of defensemen this past year. Whether it’s Todd Reirden coming over and implementing a new system and new fundamentals for the defensemen or being able to be around Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik and see how they handle things. They can relate it to me the way I can understand it as a player. They were my liason to the staff and those guys have done nothing but embrace me as a teammate and as a friend as well. The things off the ice are the most intangible things these guys bring to the table.