Capitals Show Interest in Keeping Zednik

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Washington Capitals have approached Richard Zednik's agent about extending the right wing's contract. Although the sides are not close to reaching a deal, according to David Schatia of Octagon Athlete Representation, the move provides insight into the club's plans for the veteran as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches.

Since returning from abdominal surgery three games ago, Zednik has been one of the Capitals' best forwards. On Saturday in Pittsburgh, skating on a line with Boyd Gordon and Matt Pettinger, he was instrumental in shutting down Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer. On Sunday, Zednik was credited with an assist in the 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders.

"They are interested," Schatia said by telephone from Montreal. "We've had several discussions, exchanged ideas, figures and concepts, but nothing has been resolved. I would like to think the [negotiations] are positive."

Capitals management is waiting to see how Zednik performs over the coming weeks before deciding his fate in Washington. The 31-year-old is in the final year of a contract that pays him $1.976 million and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Zednik missed six games in November with a wrist injury and 25 spanning December and January while recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia. When healthy, Zednik has been streaky (five goals and 14 points) but reliable for a rebuilding team that's in need of NHL-proven talent.

The speedy Slovak also has indicated that he enjoys living in Washington and playing for the Capitals, the organization that drafted and then reacquired him from the Canadiens in July for a third-round draft pick.

Schatia declined to divulge specifics of the negotiations but acknowledged that the sides remain far apart. Capitals General Manager George McPhee declined to comment on the contract talks.

If an extension is not agreed upon prior to this month's deadline, it's possible, if not likely, that Zednik will be dealt to a contender, likely for a draft pick. It's not believed that any teams have called the Capitals to inquire about Zednik -- yet.

"It's nothing that people of good faith can't resolve with a telephone call," Schatia said. "The ball is in their court. They know what we're looking for. If he fits into their plans, we'll hear back. If he doesn't, we'll hear something else."

Shootout Switch

In late November, after the Capitals' fourth straight defeat in the shootout, Coach Glen Hanlon switched his stance on practicing penalty shots and started setting aside 10 minutes at the conclusion of workouts for that purpose.

The shootout drought reached five games before they beat the Islanders, a breakthrough goaltender Olie Kolzig attributed to the extra work. It was the Capitals' first shootout victory since April 15.

"We've been working on it," Kolzig said. "So it carries over to the game."

But Hanlon still isn't convinced.

"I still have to be sold that you can practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex with nobody around, with nothing on the line and that has anything to do with playing in front of 17,000 people with a point on the line," he said. "I can see it in the players' eyes as soon as you tell them they're up. There's a deep swallow."

Hanlon did concede that the practice time probably helps goaltenders. "As a goaltender it's nice to face breakaway after breakaway, because it gives some rhythm," he said.

Boards Get Repaired

Speaking of rhythm, Sunday's matinee featured little of it thanks to five separate delays, totaling more than 20 minutes, for repairs to the boards at Verizon Center. Although no one was injured by the loose panes of plexiglass, players griped about the lengthy stoppages afterward.

A Capitals official said the problem was the result of a structural problem inside the boards that caused the stanchions holding the glass in place to come loose. The necessary repairs were made yesterday afternoon, according to Nate Ewell, the Capitals' director of media relations.

"We don't expect any problems tomorrow night," Ewell said, referring to the 7 p.m. face-off against the visiting Boston Bruins. . . .

Alex Ovechkin has gone without a point in back-to-back games for the first time since March 2006. With Ben Clymer being scratched Sunday, Ovechkin is now the only Capital to have skated in every game (54). . . .

Recently acquired defenseman Milan Jurcina has led all Capitals defensemen in ice time in his first two games, amassing 20:23 against Pittsburgh and a season-high 25:47 against the New York Islanders. He faces his former team tonight.

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