By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 1, 2010; D01
George McPhee put to rest one of the many questions facing the Washington Capitals after a historic first-round loss to the Montreal Canadiens: Bruce Boudreau will still be the coach the next year.
"Bruce is a really good coach," the general manager said. "He's a really good coach. He's going to be here a really long time. No need to raise those issues because he's not going anywhere."
McPhee's support of Boudreau was the biggest bit of news on a somber day at the team's Arlington practice facility, where the Capitals gathered for physicals and exit interviews before scattering across the globe for a five-month offseason that arrived nearly two months earlier than expected.
Some of the players, such as goaltender José Theodore, could have walked out of Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the final time.
Theodore, a pending unrestricted free agent, enjoyed his best season since 2003-04. But the fact that he was replaced by Semyon Varlamov early in the Capitals' playoff run for a second straight spring does not bode well for his future in Washington.
"No, I didn't talk to [anyone] yet," said Theodore, 33, who went 20-0-3 in his final 23 regular season decisions. "As a player you always want to make sure you do everything you can. And this year I did everything I could to show them what I'm capable of, especially the last 25 games."
McPhee declined to address the contractual status of specific players, saying only that he plans to meet with ownership, Boudreau and the team's pro scouts over the coming days and weeks to chart the organization's offseason course.
There's going to be change. The salary cap dictates that. How much, though, remains to be seen.
Of the three pending unrestricted free agents who joined the Capitals at the trade deadline -- Joe Corvo, Eric Belanger and Scott Walker -- only Belanger said there's mutual interest in a contract extension.
"It's my priority number one right now to see if we can get something done before July 1," Belanger said.
Shaone Morrisonn, Brendan Morrison, Milan Jurcina and Quintin Laing are also due to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
"It's an exciting time for me, in my career, having the opportunity to go on the market," Morrisonn said. "It's complicated here with all the guys that need to be signed up. I would love to stay here. But we'll see how it goes."
There are also five restricted free agents McPhee and his staff will work to get under contract. Nicklas Backstrom's $2.4 million, bonus-laden salary figures to almost triple, while Tomas Fleischmann, Eric Fehr and Jeff Schultz also are in line for big raises after career seasons (though Fleischmann's postseason slump might have stymied his earning potential). Boyd Gordon is the other restricted free agent.
Defenseman Tom Poti also came to the rink Friday to meet with coaches and say goodbye to his teammates less than a week after lying in a hospital bed wondering whether he would see again, much less resume his NHL career.
"There are four fractures in there, so they put four plates in there, a bunch of screws and stitches," Poti said of the damage inflicted by a deflected puck that struck him on the right side of his face in Game 6. "I broke my orbital bone, nasal bone, another one on this side and the bone that holds all my teeth in. That one shattered, too."
Doctors "are 100-percent confident I'll make a full recovery," he added. "Right now it's a situation where it's very blurry. But it's getting better every day. They say within a week, I'll have 100 percent vision back."
Poti, who sported a gruesome gash and had bruising around the eye, might have been the only Capital feeling thankful on the final day of team activities.
The others? They quietly walked out a side door, lamenting what could have been after a record-breaking regular season.
"I don't know why, but I think how we play in the regular season and how we play the last couple of games in the playoffs, it was two different teams," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "We didn't score goals."
Ovechkin had five goals and a team-high 10 points in the series, but he has drawn criticism for not doing enough.
"It's fair," he said with a shrug. "It was my fault. We need to score goals, and I have the chance to score goals. I didn't score goals."
At least two players said a lack of consistent effort contributed to the Capitals' shocking demise.
"We didn't work hard enough, enough," Matt Bradley said.
Walker added: "We could play a little harder and compete a little bit better. That's the most disappointing thing."
Corvo, who helped Ottawa reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2007, said the Capitals struggled to raise their collective game.
"There's not really any way to describe it -- you've just got to have gone through it," he said. "You just have to step your game up a couple levels and do things you haven't done all year long."