By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2006
The Washington Capitals and Art Breeze, the agent for Olie Kolzig, have recently have begun "conceptual" and "exploratory" negotiations on a contract extension that would fulfill the 35-year-old goaltender's desire to finish his career as a lifelong Capital.
"All Olie asks for is a reasonable opportunity to win and to be compensated according to fair market value," Breeze said by telephone from his Calgary, Alberta, office. "Clearly Olie would be one of the most highly coveted free agents in the unrestricted market."
Kolzig is in the final year of a five-year deal that is paying him $4.94 million. He is a fan favorite and the backbone of the rebuilding franchise, and General Manager George McPhee and Breeze will be under considerable pressure to get a deal done as the March 9 trade deadline approaches.
Breeze would not divulge whether he and McPhee have exchanged formal offers nor would he characterize the depth of the discussions. The market for elite goaltenders, though, appears to have been set last month, when Dallas re-signed Marty Turco to a four-year, $22.8 million contract and New Jersey locked up Martin Brodeur for six years at $5.2 per season.
Kolzig's contractual situation could have an impact beyond the Capitals' net, Breeze said.
"With Olie in the lineup, the Caps' ability to secure highly attractive unrestricted free agents will be significantly enhanced," the agent added.Ovechkin Returns
Two days after missing the first game of his NHL career, rookie left wing Alex Ovechkin returned to practice and participated at full speed for the entire session. He even took part in a spirited one-on-one drill.
Ovechkin, the league's seventh-leading scorer with 34 goals and 31 assists, missed Tuesday's game against the Islanders in New York because of a nagging groin muscle injury that has bothered him for at least two weeks. But the reigning NHL offensive player and rookie of the month expects to be in the lineup tonight when the Capitals host the Toronto Maple Leafs at MCI Center.
"I want to play all games," Ovechkin said at Piney Orchard Ice Arena. "I feel better. I am 100 percent, one zero zero percent."
Ovechkin's linemate, veteran center Dainius Zubrus, who missed Tuesday's game with a lingering arm injury, also practiced and plans to play tonight. Missing the workout were Jeff Halpern (upper body injury), Matt Bradley (foot) and Chris Clark (undisclosed injury). The status of those three will be determined after this morning's pregame skate.Capitals Demoted
Forwards Colin Forbes and Boyd Gordon and defenseman Mike Green were reassigned to Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League yesterday. While the team's injury situation could determine which, if any, are recalled for tonight's game, Gordon's availability is somewhat complicated.
The Capitals want Gordon to play for the Bears during the NHL's two-week hiatus later this month for the Olympics. But like all players on entry level contracts, Gordon won't be eligible to play in the AHL if he appears in 16 of the Capitals' 20 games leading up to the break, which is Feb. 12-27.
Gordon, a checking line center and penalty kill specialist, has played in 13 of them, meaning to remain eligible, he can only play in two of the Capitals' next five games.Concern for Colley
Defenseman Jamie Heward, Coach Glen Hanlon and McPhee expressed concern for Islanders winger Kevin Colley, who suffered a broken neck Tuesday when he crashed headfirst into the corner boards.
Heward sidestepped an attempted check by Colley just before the 27-year-old Islander hit the dasher board. Colley broke the fifth cervical (C-5) vertebrae in his upper spine, but did not suffer any spinal cord damage. He had surgery yesterday.
"When he went into the boards and fell onto the ice, yeah, I was concerned," Heward said. "When the trainers came over and he didn't get up right away, I knew something was wrong."