Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2008 2:00 PM
Washington Post staff writer Tarik El-Bashir was online Friday, Jan. 11, at noon ET to examine the team and the rest of the National Hockey League.
A transcript follows.
Tarik El-Bashir: Hello and thanks for spending an hour of your afternoon with me. We've got lots to talk about after all that's happened in Capsland over the past 24 hours. So let's get started.
Washington, D.C.: Do you know if the Caps began talking contract extensions with Green or Kolzig?
Tarik El-Bashir: I'm told the Caps are hoping to start negotiations with Mike Green shortly. I imagine now that Alex Ovechkin's contract is done, that means really soon, perhaps days.
As for Kolzig, there haven't been any serious talks and there isn't really a time frame for them to begin. I would caution you not to read too much into that, though.
Leesburg, Va.: Hi Tarik. Great work covering the Caps.
I have a question. Now that the Capitals have signed Ovechkin to a long term deal, how does this effect their working budget in terms of what types of players they attempt to acquire over the years?
In other words, they have essentially subtracted $10 million from what they can spend on payroll each of the next 13 seasons. Do they look at it now as a matter of saying "Okay, we have one great player, and now we are going to try to fill out our roster with as many other cost effective players as we can with the remaining budget" or do they say "We want to spend X amount on Wingers. X amount at Goal, etc. And if we need another star along the way, we'll get it."
I guess I am just interested in some insight into the long-term roster implications that this important signing will have.
Tarik El-Bashir: It's really tough to look too far into the future without knowing what the salary cap will be, what revenue sharing will look like and the status of the team's finances.
That said, the Capitals feel they've actually got themselves what could turn out to be a bargain -- down the road, that is.
Think about it this way: When Sidney Crosby's new deal expires in six years, what's he going to ask for? I'm willing to be it's going to be considerably more than what Ovechkin will be making.
Silver Spring, Md.: Did the team do anything printable to commemorate Boudreau's birthday?
Tarik El-Bashir: It's funny, I asked Donald Brashear if the team had done anything for Boudreau. He looked at me and said something like, "Oh, it was his birthday?"
I'm not so sure players pay that much attention to that kind of stuff. If it's in the newspaper that morning, they may plan a shaving-cream-pie-in-the-face for a teammate. But otherwise, they aren't thinking about it.
Alexandria, Va.: Alex seems to be a pretty family-oriented guy. How much say do you think his parents had into signing this kind of deal with Washington?
Tarik El-Bashir: My sources tell me that his parents really, really wanted him to stay in Washington.
The family likes and trusts Ted Leonsis. They like the city. But most importantly, they like the fact that Alex won't be overwhelmed by pressure from the fans and scrutiny from the media, which will allow him to focus on hockey.
Virginia: I am curious if you have ever heard any musings or rumbling from Capitals officials who feel that the team would draw more fans if the arena were located in Northern Virginia?
I know the myriad of reasons why such a scenario is not a even a remote consideration, but always wondered if the ownership group realizes that perhaps the location of the Verizon Center is great for the Wizards, but may be a detriment to the Capitals.
Tarik El-Bashir: That's a great point. And yes, I have heard that. The Caps know that much of their fan base comes from NoVa, and that getting downtown with the kids on a Tuesday from Fairfax or Herndon is really tough. But like you said, there's no point in complaining about the location of Verizon Center -- it's not moving and the team isn't building a new rink.
So the front office must figure out how to get people into the building, regardless of where they live.
Springfield, Va.: How's the rest of the team feeling about Ovie's contract. Are they as thrilled as the fans are?
Tarik El-Bashir: Olie Kolzig came into the dressing room after practice today singing, "I'm in the money, I'm in the money". That got a good laugh out of everyone, including Ovechkin.
When the tape recorders are off, I think a lot of Ovechkin's teammates were shocked by the figures, but they are not jealous. They understand that he's one of the faces of the league, he's a generational player and he plays hard every night.
Maui (but on vacation!): What specifically do those who know hockey see in Syd The Kid's game that make him the preordained King of Hockey. Statistically, he's not the best, plus, he has only played for a few years. I ask because I am getting pretty tired of the NHL shoving him down our throats.
Tarik El-Bashir: I hear that a lot in Washington. And I don't get it.
I understand and appreciate the bitter rivalry between the Pens and Caps. But come on, Crosby IS a GREAT player. You cannot deny this fact.
The Caps also have a GREAT player. But don't put down Crosby, or the league's attempts to capitalize on his marketability simply because you don't like the Pens.
Anonymous: TEB: you wrote: "But most importantly, they like the fact that Alex won't be overwhelmed by pressure from the fans and scrutiny from the media, which will allow him to focus on hockey."
Wow! For once our being a small-market, speck on the windscreen of the might NHL juggernaut is a good thing! The next time Ted pressures me to buy tickets, I'll tell him I don't want to put that kind of pressure on Ovechkin!!
Tarik El-Bashir: I was drawing a comparison to what Ovechkin would face on a daily basis in a city like Montreal. Twice as much would be asked of him off the ice. If he went three games without a goal, headlines would scream, "Ovechkin in a slump!", and every time he was spotted out on the town, it would result in a Page 6 type story.
Alex's parents didn't want their son to have to deal with all of those distractions. That's what I meant.
Chevy Chase, Md.: I think it's great that Leonsis was willing to make such a strong commitment to Ovechkin, but I'm a bit worried now about the 19 other guys who need to get paid. Is Leonsis just banking on the salary cap ballooning over the next decade or are the Caps going to be royally screwed when it comes time to signing established talent to place around AO?
Tarik El-Bashir: Leonsis is hoping that in five years the $9 million he's paying Ovechkin will look like a bargain.
I also wouldn't worry too much about whether the team is going to find itself in cap trouble. The ceiling is going to keep going up, which should allow them to keep the core intact. The only question is whether fan support and overall team revenue are also going to continue to rise.
Anonymous: Playoff talk...
I know much of the focus has been on simply getting back in the hunt, but it seems that the Capitals have a legitimate shot at actually winning the Southeast division.
They've been playing exceptionally well, despite injuries and against some of the best teams in the league. With Carolina not exactly running away with it, has the discussion in the locker room changed toward that?
Tarik El-Bashir: I depends on who you ask. Coach Boudreau is all about catching Carolina. Kolzig, though, thinks snagging the seventh or eighth spot is more realistic.
I tend to agree with Kolzig. Carolina is underachieving at the moment. Eighth looks like more of a possibility for the Caps, assuming they continues to rack up points at their current clip the rest of the way. Let's not forget how tough that's going to be.
The rumor is that Nylander is going to have a surgery on his shoulder and is out for the season. Is there any ground under it?
Tarik El-Bashir: Nylander practiced today. He's playing through a considerable amount of pain and has trouble sleeping because of the shoulder injury.
It's my understanding that if his rotator cuff gets any worse, surgery may be the only option. But as of right now, he's expected to be in the lineup on Sunday.
Owings Mills, Md.: Tarik - What do you make of the negative reaction to the Ovechkin deal from TSN, and papers across Canada?
Is it bitterness based upon the realization that they'll likely never see him play as a Maple Leaf, Canadien, Flame, etc?
It just seems like misplaced anger, to be honest.
Tarik El-Bashir: Misplaced anger is probably the right way to look at it. I honestly don't get it.
I think folks up there sometimes can't understand why a player wouldn't want to play in Montreal or Toronto or Vancouver. Well guess what? Not everyone does.
Virginia: Do you know what is up with Joe B. welcoming viewers from Northern California during the Capitals' games?
Tarik El-Bashir: I'm always at the games so I never hear the broadcast. But I talk to Joe a lot. I'll ask him on Sunday. So check back.
Huntington Beach, Calif.: Now that the Caps appear like they have the ability to make a run at a playoff spot, is there any indication that they could be buyers down the stretch and, if so, with offense the obvious need area, any rumors as to players they have their eye on?
Tarik El-Bashir: You are looking waaaaay too far down the road, my man. Even the Caps don't know if they are going to be buyers or sellers yet.
But assuming they do continue to march toward a playoff spot, I would be shocked if they made any huge moves. Chris Clark is due back soon. Eric Fehr might not be too far off. So right wing shouldn't be an issue.
I guess the only question mark would be defense, especially if Brian Pothier doesn't get better soon.
Washington, D.C.: Does Ovechkin's contract contain any incentives or bonuses, or is it simply all base salary?
Tarik El-Bashir: No bonuses. All salary. All guaranteed. And no agent to pay.
It's good to be Alex these days.
Annandale, Va.: Is Nylander really injured and going to be out the rest of the season?
Tarik El-Bashir: I already addressed this. He practiced today. He's definitely hurting because of his balky shoulder, but he's expected to play Sunday.
Logan North, D.C.: The huge picture of Alex Ovechkin on the cover of today's Sports section suggests he has an acute need for additional funds for dental work and hair styling. Is any of the $124 million he will be receiving under his new contract likely to go to these needs?
Tarik El-Bashir: Alex did joke about buying a razor. As for the missing tooth, I think he likes the gap. No comment on the hair.
South Shaw, D.C.: With Poti hoping to come back on Sunday, have we seen the last of Steve Eminger, barring further injury?
Tarik El-Bashir: I wouldn't say that we've seen the last of Steve Eminger. I thought he looked okay in limited playing time the past two games, especially considering that he hasn't played barely at all this season.
But if Poti comes back, Eminger may get frozen out again. We'll see. It was tough to tell from today's practice.
Alexandria, Va.: Tarik -- What's with all the hate from the Canadian media? What did the Caps ever do to them?
Tarik El-Bashir: Hate the contract. But don't hate the player. As I said earlier, I don't get it. The Caps signed Alex to a market value deal that may turn out to be a bargain down the road.
Alex likes it in Washington, and I think that makes folks north of the border a little crazy.
Fairfax, Va.: What a great day to be a Caps fan! Onto my question:
The Avalanche game has convinced me more and more that Quintin Laing deserves to stay up here. That standing ovation on the penalty kill was well-deserved. Do you agree? If so, who do the Caps move once everyone is healthy and the roster is overcrowded? What a great problem to have, huh!
Tarik El-Bashir: Bruce Boudreau talked about the standing ovation that Laing received after today's practice. He thought that was a really classy gesture from Caps fans.
I also think Laing has earned a spot here for the rest of the season. He's taken the term, "Taking one for the team" to a whole new level. Ouch.
You ought to see him limping around in the dressing room after games. He can barely walk, but he's got a smile on his face. And why not? He's living the dream.
Washington, D.C.: So now that both Alex's are locked up, who will GMGM turn his attention to resigning?
Tarik El-Bashir: Mike Green is next. I'm told he'll be seeking $4-5 million per over five or six years.
Crofton, Md.: Tarik,
Thank you for your updates and weekly chats! Tell me, how important is it for the young Capitals that Boudreau was named the coach? He coached many of them in Hershey. We've had many young players over the years, and their development gets stymied and they fade away. Boudreau seems to "plug in and play" the young kids, and they seem to respond well.
Tarik El-Bashir: The proof is in the numbers. Backstrom has blossomed under Boudreau. So has Green. Morrisonn's plus-minus rating is much improved, as is Ovechkin's.
You can't argue with numbers.
Moshington, DC: What's the general feeling around the Caps organization now that Ovechkin is locked up? Are people a little giddy, or is it business as usual?
Tarik El-Bashir: I think people are relieved, especially Ovechkin, who was getting tired of all of the media pressure.
Tarik El-Bashir: Thanks for joining me today. I didn't get to all of your questions, but keep 'em coming next week. I've got to write a story for tomorrow's paper, so I've got to run. Take care.
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