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Updated: April 2nd, 2013 12:55pm
Gophers' Nate Schmidt signs two-year contract with Capitals

Gophers' Nate Schmidt signs two-year contract with Capitals

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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Nate Schmidt won't be back with the Gophers hockey team.

The junior defenseman confirmed in a text message on Tuesday afternoon he has signed a two-year deal with the Washington Capitals.

"I wouldn't trade my experience at the University of Minnesota for anything, and I am incredibly grateful to the team and staff for three great seasons at the 'U,'" Schmidt said in a statement issued a short time later by the university.

"This wasn't an easy decision to make, but it is the right decision, and I am looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my playing career."

Schmidt, 21, had nine goals and 23 assists and earned All-WCHA First Team honors this season for the Gophers, whose were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament on Friday with a loss to Yale.

"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," Gophers coach Don Lucia said in a statement.

"He had two tremendous years and felt he was ready to take his game to the next level. He has a great opportunity with Washington and I want to wish him the best as he turns pro and thank him for his contributions to Gopher hockey."

A former St. Cloud Cathedral prep star, Schmidt was an undrafted free agent. The Capitals, in confirming the signing, said Schmidt will report to the team's practice facility in northern Virginia on Wednesday.

The Capitals are currently a game under .500, in third place in the NHL's Southeast Division and three points back of the Rangers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Any player who signs before Wednesday's trade deadline is eligible for the playoffs.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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