LAKE PLACID, N.Y., SEPT. 12 -- The Day-Glo-optic-something beach pants that he occasionally wears notwithstanding, Rod Langway is one of the venerable elders of the Washington Capitals.

Scott Stevens became a Capital a couple of months before Langway, with both playing their first season in Washington in 1982-83. Though Stevens's departure officially makes Langway's tenure the longest among players, he has been the leader and captain for years.

Langway is not the oldest at 33; goalie Mike Liut, who arrived in March, has that distinction at 34. But there are players at training camp who were five years old when Langway was helping the Montreal Canadiens win a Stanley Cup. This season will be Langway's 14th as a professional and, with his contract running out next spring, it's a good time to examine where he's been and where he would like to be in the future.

"It comes down to how I want to play it and what other teams need," said Langway, referring to the NHL marketplace. "I don't know what my value is and I'm gambling in a lot of ways. This is my 14th year in the pros. If I stay healthy and things work out, I don't think I will lose. If I do lose, then maybe I will have a job in an organization. But I'm not scraping the barrel for the next check.

"I'd like to play one year at a time. No one is going to give me a four-year contract. A one-and-one {one year, plus an option year} maybe, as long as I stay healthy. It's up here too -- how much do I want to play."

Langway is entering the option year of a contract that will pay $342,000 plus $75,000 in deferred compensation. With Stevens gone, Langway's importance increases, but by how much? Langway and General Manager David Poile met Sunday to discuss his contract situation, and more meetings are planned.

"He's treated me pretty well in the past," said Langway, who is negotiating his own contract.

Salaries in the NHL are rising dramatically. If Langway shows he can still play at a high level and a team thinks it is one veteran defenseman away from a title, they might offer quite a bit next summer. Langway has to consider that possibility, while also considering what he might do when his playing career concludes. He has business interests and has lived in the Washington area since the trade from Montreal.

"I look at myself a little bit like Wes Unseld," Langway said of the Bullets' coach. "He stayed in the organization {after playing for the team} and the organization took care of him, though nothing was in writing. But with the escalation of contracts, there is a lot of money out there."

Langway said he could see himself possibly working as an assistant in charge of defensemen. But he could not envision being a head coach, either at the professional level or in college, and he said he could handle only limited scouting.

"I don't want to be going all over Canada watching junior defensemen," he said.

"There's been some mention of it generally by all of us," Capitals President Dick Patrick said. "Obviously, Rod has been a cornerstone of the franchise. The first question for Rod is how much longer he wants to play. He's played very well for us throughout the years and again performed at a high level last season. When the end is near, I think his own thoughts will crystallize."

The seven-time all-star and two-time Norris Trophy winner was the hero in Game 4 of the second-round playoff series when he scored from an improbable angle to lift the Capitals to a 4-3 overtime victory over the New York Rangers. That was Langway's only goal of the season, but offense is not his game, and he doesn't pretend it to be. His is a game of hawking, discouraging and shutting down opposing forwards, keeping them away from the Capitals net and off the scoreboard.

"Rod Langway looks pretty good," Coach Terry Murray said. "Early in training camp all you can ask from players is hard work. One thing is that he does look very strong -- almost overpowering some players at times."

That makes sense. Langway came into camp tanned and weighing 230 pounds. He already has lost five pounds and would like to play at 215 or 218. Most of his offseason workouts were with weights.

"I overdid it with the heavy weights," Langway said of his training regimen. "I couldn't do much running because of my knees and back."

Langway played only 58 games last season and had arthroscopic surgery on both knees. The back injury is from the 1987-88 season. The aches are a reminder of the years that have passed, the shots that have been blocked, the checks given out and taken. But Langway is doing the extra work, holding back time, just a bit.

Down the hill from the Olympic Centre where the Capitals train is the cement oval that served as a speed skating track during the Olympics. Langway spent 30 minutes on it the other day, using rollerblades that are almost as much in vogue as Day-Glo shorts.

"It was just to do something else rather than go to the hotel and sleep," Langway said of the Monday workout. He laughed and added, "Today we had a real good skate, so I'm sore."