A day after the Wizards brought back Antawn Jamison, the Capitals stepped up and re-signed a vital piece of their roster, by inking offensive defenseman Mike Green to a four-year, $21 million contract. The budding superstar led the NHL in scoring by a defenseman, and although he was a restricted free agent, other teams were still very much interested in the youngster. That’s probably because at 22 years old, Green was the youngest player to lead defensemen in goals since Paul Coffey back in 1981-82.
With lesser names earning bigger bucks on day one of free agency, the longer this dragged out, the more costly it would have been for the home team. There’s always going to be a need for a blueliner who can play defense and light the lamp, and the Caps should be commended for getting this done quickly.
Then, came the big swerve of the day – the Caps signed Colorado Avs goalie Jose Theodore to a two-year, $9 million deal. This happened because Christobal Huet, the guy the team traded for Feb. 26th last season, spurned the team in order to grab a few extra bucks elsewhere. Turns out that Caps general manager George McPhee called Huet’s people and said, “We want Huet back in town, so what’s it going to take to get this done?” Huet’s agent said they were looking for a three-year, $15 million deal, and so that’s what McPhee offered them. Instead of taking the offer they asked for, they shopped it around for more money, ultimately netted a four-year, $22 million deal courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks. Feeling used, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis blogged to let folks know that the only reason Huet left town is greed, and not because of a lack of effort on the team’s part.
Rounding out the day, former face of the franchise Olaf Kolzig signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth $1.5 million plus incentives. I love Olie, but I can’t help but think he and former Caps captain Jeff Halpern can room together on the road next season and enjoy another year of playing on a rebuilding hockey team. At least new coach/old talking head Barry Melrose will be able to break down their post-game highlights after losing another 6-2 game to teams actually capable of playing defense.
All in all, things worked out well for the Caps. They got one of the two guys they targeted, but more impressively, the moved quickly to lock in Theodore as soon as they figured out Huet was playing games. There were only two game-changing goalies available this offseason, so when one guy tried to screw them over, McPhee acted swiftly and brought in a former Vezina Trophy and NHL most valuable player. As far as backup plans go, that’s about as good as it gets. And for a team that promised to be quiet this offseason, that’s an awfully exciting day one.
All that’s left to do before next season is:
1. Re-sign Brooks Laich for me.
2. Re-sign Sergei Fedorov for my main man, Steve.
3. Take Brian Pothier out back, shoot him and put him out of his misery (and more importantly, get his $2.5-million deal off of the books).