Friday, May 15, 2009

Capitals Break Camp for Summer

Just 36 hours after being eliminated by the Penguins, the Capitals gathered one last time at Kettler to clean out their lockers, say their goodbyes and part ways for the summer.

The team detailed to Capitals Insider some of the injuries the team had at the end of the series, with some already known (Mike Green's shoulder, Tom Poti's foot, John Erskine's foot), and some others that came to light in Shaone Morrisonn having a groin and ankle injury, and a thumb injury to Alexander Semin.

Alex Ovechkin also detailed that he needed shots before every game for both a wrist and groin injury, but he - in his words, "thank God" - wouldn't need surgery.

George McPhee also said he wouldn't be buying out Michael Nylander's contract this offseason, with him adding that the move wouldn't make fiscal sense and he also thought didn't think that Nylander's injury had healed fully.

One of the most interesting position battles will be in goal, and McPhee said he expects Theodore - with his $4.5 million contract having one year left to run - would be in camp when the team reconvenes in September.

Asked about his status, Theodore told the Post:

"I still see myself as a No. 1 goalie. I see myself coming here next camp and being ready right off the bat. I know what I can do. From there, they are going to decide what they want to do."

With McPhee telling reporters "we can't bring [all the goalies] back," it seems an ominous sign for Brent Johnson's future with the club, as it seems clear the battle for the starting role will be between Theodore and Simeon Varlamov, who was tremendous in the postseason.

Theodore and Varlamov have deals for next year, Johnson is an unrestricted free agent, and likely will get some decent offers with a lot of teams looking for help in net. Michal Neuvirth is playing well in the AHL, and although it's unlikely the team would go with a pair of young keepers, as long as Theodore is comfortable with his role - and he mentioned to the Post how he was benched in Colorado a couple of seasons ago and then reassumed the starting role the next year - they'll probably stay with that pairing next year and let Johnson find his money elsewhere.

Another veteran with his future in the air is Sergei Fedorov, who told the Post "I still have got some legs left and I'm still enjoying the game and I'm certainly enjoying this group of young and very talented players. I didn't think about retiring. By saying that, I would like to continue to play. With the young legs around me, it's really helpful."

Fedorov reportedly wasn't in the Capitals' long-term plans late in the regular season, but certainly got the club's attention with his Game 7 game winner against the Rangers. While that was his only goal of the postseason, he also had seven assists, and helped provide some leadership for the team's young Russians. But he will turn 40 in December, and certainly the club might opt to spend the $4 million he made this year upgrading other parts of the team.

With the relatively large window between the team's defeat and the cleanout, both McPhee and Bruce Boudreau weren't overly specific about the team's long-term plans, but it today could be a farewell to veterans such as Johnson, Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov and Donald Brashear, all of whom can sign with anyone come July 1st.

Ovechkin and Green will be back in the spotlight in just over a month, as the pair are going to be in Las Vegas for the NHL's awards show, with Ovechkin up for his second straight Hart and Pearson Trophies, while Green looks for a Norris Trophy in his fourth NHL campaign.

With the Bruins losing to the Hurricanes in overtime of Game 7 last night, the Capitals now know they will pick 24th in the NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, and then will have a week after that to see if they can make a splash with some money being freed up with the large expiring contracts of the four veterans.

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