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How Nicklas Backstrom stayed a Capital for life

How Nicklas Backstrom stayed a Capital for life

WASHINGTON — The night Alex Ovechkin signed his record 13-year, $124 million contract with the Capitals, almost 12 years ago, he and teammate Nicklas Backstrom left a raucous season-ticket holder event in silence.

Media obligations behind them, a bright future ahead, they rode the quiet elevator down one flight at Capital One Arena to the players’ parking area in the garage below. Backstrom, then just 20, had driven Ovechkin, 22, to the arena, where an estimated 3,000 fans roared when owner Ted Leonsis announced the contract extension. 

After a polite goodnight to a reporter, they walked to Backstrom’s car. He’d given Ovechkin a ride to the arena. Life was simpler then. Stanley Cup playoff failures had yet to scar them. Wives and kids and life responsibilities were still a few years away. 

They jumped into the car and the door shut. For a beat, the hum of the empty garage was the only sound. But from the car the quiet shattered. Ovechkin screamed and Backstrom laughed and two hockey players barely out of their teens bounced up and down in sheer joy. 

The engine then roared to life – Backstrom insists he was driving, but that part remains in some dispute – and the car peeled up the exit ramp and into a celebratory Washington night. 

The memory of that evening sprung to life again on Tuesday in the same building, at the same time of year when Backstrom signed a five-year deal worth $46 million that will keep him in Washington possibly for the rest of his career. One of the great centers of his generation, Ovechkin’s running mate for 13 years, a future Hockey Hall of Famer, will stay with the only franchise he’s even known.

“You are recognized when you are with the same team for a long time and that is what I want to be,” Backstrom said. “I am a born and raised Capital and that is where I want to finish. I couldn't see myself in another jersey and I don't want to play for another team.”
A trust built over 14 years, since he was drafted in 2006, No. 4 overall, allowed Backstrom to negotiate with the Capitals without an agent and in good faith. He came prepared. After maybe eight meetings since the season started in October, some in hotel rooms on the road with general manager Brian MacLellan, others at MedStar Iceplex after practice, the two sides closed the relatively small financial gap.
“You could tell his personality traits on the ice, they translate off the ice,” MacLellan said. “He's effective. He observes things well. He reads body language. He did a really good job.”
Backstrom and the Caps figured out the average annual value ($9.2 million) of the deal a few weeks back. Smaller, important issues like a no-move clause and a modified no-trade clause came near the end. But Backstrom didn’t bring paperwork to meetings, he didn’t care about the numbers. 
“I knew what I was worth and that’s what I told them,” Backstrom said. 

Backstrom went back a decade when he signed his own long-term contract at age 22 and the Capitals had a similar signing event at MedStar Iceplex after the 2010 season came to a shocking end after a first-round Stanley Cup loss to Montreal. 
“It’s really weird because it was after my third year, but it felt like I was still new to the league when I signed,” Backstrom said. “I didn’t really know what was going on, how the process worked. Pretty new to the thing. After being here for this many years you learn and see what’s going on and how the process works. And, obviously, you were a little younger back then, too.
That deal was worth $67 million over 10 years with a $6.7 million cap hit. So long underpaid compared to other top centers, Backstrom earned fair market value for a player who turns 33 next November 23. He has 668 career assists and is closing fast on 700. He has 908 career points. He could reach 1,000 by the end of next season.  
It’s not out of the question he could finish with over 1,200 career points and rank second among all Swedish NHL players behind Mats Sundin (1,349) and in the top 40 or 50 among all players by the time his new deal is finished. One thing is certain: Capitals fans didn’t want to see him leave, Washington management wanted him here and Backstrom and his family felt the same way. This is home.
“I honestly don't know, and I don't really care what would have happened if I went on the open market or whatever,” Backstrom said. “But I didn't want to take that chance. I wanted to stay here and I wanted to make a deal that worked for both sides and I want to win. That is what I want to do.”

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NHL, NHLPA finalize protocols for the 2020 postseason

NHL, NHLPA finalize protocols for the 2020 postseason

At long last, the NHL and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) have agreed on the protocols under which the season can formally resume. The news was first reported Sunday by TSN's Bob McKenzie. The details of a new CBA that has been negotiated as part of the NHL and NHLPA's efforts to bring back hockey, however, is still being finalized. Hockey cannot resume until both the protocols for 2020 and the new CBA memorandum of understanding are ratified by the league's board of governors, the NHLPA's executive committee and a full membership vote by the players.

The full details of the protocols have not been formally released, but aspects have been leaked over the past week as both sides inched closer to an agreement. As expected, any player will have the option of opting out of Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (resumption of the season) without penalty, but the player must notify the team by July 7.

Teams will also be limited to 30 skaters in Phase 3 with an unlimited number of goalies. In Phase 4, that number goes down to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies so presumably this should not be an issue for most teams. It does, however, allow two extra players in case a team is caught off guard by a player opting out.

In addition, Frank Seravalli reported players' families will be allowed to join the players for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final which will take place in Edmonton. Elliotte Friedman also reported there will be significant punishments for individuals who try to leave the bubble.

The league formally paused its season on March 12. Since that time, the remainder of the regular season was canceled and the postseason re-structured to include 24 teams. Two round-robin tournaments will take place among the top four teams in the East and West to determine seeding while the remaining teams will all play a best-of-five play-in round. From there, the playoffs will begin with all four remaining rounds being a best-of-seven and with teams being reseeded after each round to determine matchups.


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Remembering the highlights of each of the Capitals' American players

Remembering the highlights of each of the Capitals' American players

The Capitals have a superstar Russian, an incredible Swedish center, a Canadian netminder, but the team also boasts several American players as well. On the 4th of July when American celebrate the birth of our nation, lets put down the barbecue, apple pie and fireworks for a few minutes to remember some of the top highlights from each of the team's Americans.

Travis Boyd: 4 goals for Hayden

In Feb. 2018, Boyd turned hardship into an inspirational moment. While with the Hershey Bears, Boyd's daughter, Hayden, developed a serious infection and had to go to the hospital. Boyd went with her on a Sunday and did not leave until Friday morning to prepare for that night's game, a game in which he would score four goals.

John Carlson: The golden goal

Carlson has numerous highlights from his career with the Caps, but on Indepence Day it seems only fitting to look back at his biggest goal for his country. Carlson represented Team USA in the 2010 World Junior Championships which was hosted by Canada that year. USA made it all the way to the final where the played the host nation. Tied at 5 through regulation, Carlson scored the golden goal off a 2-on-1 as he caught the goalie leaning anticipating the pass.

Nic Dowd: Historic penalty shot

In Game 5 of the Caps' series against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019, Nic Dowd was slashed by defenseman Dougie Hamilton while he was in alone on goalie Petr Mrazek. Dowd was awarded the first penalty shot of his career and he delivered, dekeing right to open up Mrazek's pads and tucking the puck through the 5-hole. In addition to being his first penalty shot goal, the goal was also Dowd's first-career playoff point.

The goal also had some historic significance for the team as it was Washington's first ever playoff penalty shot goal.


Garnet Hathaway: Shows his toughness against the Rangers

On Oct. 18, the Caps hosted the New York Rangers and it proved to be an pretty epic night for Hathaway. He was knocked out of the game in the second period with a broken nose after a big hit from Jacob Trouba, came back in the third, drew a cross-check, fought Brendan Smith (again, with a broken nose), the Caps scored on the resulting power play and Hathaway returned to score the empty-netter.

That’s a pretty unbelievable game.

Nick Jensen: Assisting on goal No. 700

Jensen has been with the Capitals for about a year and a half, but he will forever be linked to the team's greatest franchise player thanks to one assist.

Against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 22, Jensen grabbed a loose puck behind the offensive goal line and sent it back behind the net to keep the offensive cycle going. That allowed Evgeny Kuznetsov to find Alex Ovechkin who scored career goal No. 700.

T.J. Oshie: T.J. Sochi

Who could forget about Oshie's incredible performance at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi?

Playing against Team Russia, USA leaned heavily on Oshie in the shootout. He would score four times on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as USA walked away victorious.

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