When Ivan Majesky was signed as a free agent by the Washington Capitals in August, club officials were aware of his knee injury but expected him to be ready for training camp. Majesky wasn't, and one month into the regular season, the imposing, 6-foot-4, 231-pound defenseman still hasn't taken a shift in a Capitals uniform.
But his long-awaited debut could come by the end of the month.
Majesky, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing in the world championships in May, began skating with his new teammates last month, and he has recently ramped up his participation. He now takes part in all team drills, although he still appears tentative and, in many situations, looks a step slow.
The 29-year-old Slovakian said he got good news during his visit with Benjamin Shaffer, the Capitals' physician, last Wednesday.
"I feel a lot better," said Majesky (pronounced my-YEH-ski) this week at Piney Orchard Ice Arena. "I saw the doctor, and he said he's going to clear me to play."
When exactly that clearance will be granted remains unclear.
"We have to work that out with [General Manager George McPhee] and my agent, to see what they want me to do," Majesky said. "If they want me to go down for a few games or whatever they want, I really don't know."
McPhee said: "He's getting closer, but he's not there yet. It's probably going to be a little while yet."
Although Majesky has had a history of knee ailments, McPhee said he was not overly concerned about his current injury when he signed him to a one-year, $800,000 contract.
"We had talked to his agent about it," McPhee said, referring to Octagon's Larry Kelly. "We thought he might be ready for camp, but they said if he's not, you won't have a problem. And it hasn't been a problem.
"Ivan has been terrific. He's been working hard. It's always hard to know with these injuries. We told him that when our doctor and trainer think he's ready to go, he'll play."
Because Majesky failed his pre-training camp physical examination, the Capitals are not obligated to pay him until he is able to play. Even if he were cleared to play this week or next, it's likely he would first be sent to the American Hockey League, where he would work his way into game condition with the Hershey (Pa.) Bears.
When Majesky joins the Caps, he figures to give them an immediate and measurable boost on the blueline. The team's young defensive corps has shown steady improvement, particularly the past two games, but the addition of a bona fide, top-four defenseman will help, even if he's not 100 percent until January.
A steady, stay-at-home type with good instincts, Majesky would likely be paired with offensive-minded defensemen Steve Eminger, Jamie Heward or Mike Green.
But that's probably a few weeks away, and Majesky preferred not to get ahead of the situation. The longer than expected recovery has disappointed him, too.
"I thought, after the surgery, I would be ready in the middle of October because the doctor said it takes six months," he said. "I don't get paid right now. For me, it's not about money. I want to play. [But] I don't want to come back early and get hurt again. I want to play hockey for some more years, so I want to take care of it now.
"I'm doing the workouts every day just wondering when I'm going to play. I hope it's just a couple of more days. I'm excited to play."