The Capitals made the announcement on Thursday. Irbe replaces Dave Prior, who resigned after 12 years with the Capitals.
Irbe was an NHL goalie for 13 seasons with San Jose, Dallas, Vancouver and Carolina, compiling a 2.83 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. He appeared in the 1994 and 1999 NHL All-Star games.
Irbe last was in the league in the 2003-04 season, then played professionally in Europe.
He was the goaltending coach for his hometown Dinamo Riga in Latvia in the Continental Hockey League last season.