Capitals Re-Sign Forward Dainius Zubrus

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 19, 2005

The Washington Capitals re-signed Dainius Zubrus to a two-year contract yesterday that will make him the highest-paid forward on the team this season.

Zubrus, who is considered a cornerstone in the team's rebuilding process, will earn $1.85 million per year. The 27-year-old Lithuanian likely will play on the Capitals' top line, possibly alongside rookie left wing Alexander Ovechkin.

"Once they started talking numbers, it only took a few days to make a deal," said the 6-foot-4, 226 center-right wing, who has played nine seasons. "Coach [Glen] Hanlon called me today to welcome me back. I'm comfortable in my situation with Washington."

After the 2003-04 season, Zubrus rejected the Capitals' qualifying offer of one year and a 10 percent raise over his $1.5 million salary. He played for Russian Super League runner-up Lada Togliatti during the year-long NHL lockout.

The Capitals also signed free agents Matt Bradley and Jean-Francois Fortin. Bradley, a 27-year-old right wing, scored seven goals and tallied nine assists in 82 games with Pittsburgh in 2003-04. Fortin, 26, has played in 71 NHL games since 2001-02, all with Washington.

In other personnel developments, Capitals majority owner Ted Leonsis said in a online chat Tuesday that the team has "reached out" to free agent right wing Peter Bondra.

Yesterday, Bondra's Edmonton-based agent, Rich Winter, said the Capitals have indeed made an offer to bring back Bondra, a fan favorite during his 13-plus seasons in Washington. Winter said Bondra is entertaining offers from several teams.

Bondra, 37, was traded to Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2004, for prospect Brooks Laich and a 2005 second-round pick. Bondra makes his home in Annapolis.

General Manager George McPhee said, "It's really up to Peter whether he plays here or not."

The Capitals also are in negotiations with WTEM-980 on a new contract to broadcast the team's games, and a deal could be announced in the coming days, two sources with knowledge of the talks said.

NHL Notes: The league and Comcast announced a multiyear agreement to air two games each week on the cable giant's Outdoor Life Network.

OLN will show at least 58 regular season games Monday and Tuesday nights, and playoff contests. OLN, which has gained recognition for its broadcasts of the Tour de France, replaces ESPN as the NHL's U.S. national cable partner.

ESPN turned down its $60 million option to carry the NHL this season, then declined the opportunity to match OLN's bid, which will reportedly pay the NHL $65 million next season. ESPN executives said the NHL's minuscule ratings simply did not justify the expense.

OLN's coverage will begin Oct. 5, with the New York Rangers visiting the Philadelphia Flyers. NBC will also carry NHL games, including Games 3-7 of the Stanley Cup finals, but will not pay any upfront rights fees.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company