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Ovechkin and Kuznetsov still want to see Russians in the Olympics, even if it is as a neutral team

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov still want to see Russians in the Olympics, even if it is as a neutral team

The feeling from the Capital's Russian athletes on Wednesday was one of disappointment over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

 “It’s hard for athletes,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters. “Some athletes work out for maybe three years and get ready for Olympics.”

He continued, “I don't know where it goes but obviously the athletes who's not going to be in the Olympic Games because of the rules, they work so hard to get ready and do their best in Olympic Games. It is only one lifetime opportunity. It's hard.”

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Ovechkin was one of the most outspoken critics of the NHL’s decision not to participate in the Olympics even going so far as to say he would still go despite the league’s decision. He later had to back down from those comments, but his passion for representing his nation has been clear so the fact that no one will be able to compete under the Russian flag in PyecongChang obviously stings the proud Moscow native.

Fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov was quick to point on that the IOC’s decision affects more than just hockey players saying he felt for those athletes who compete as individuals.

“I can imagine how that feels for those athletes...who prepare like 3-4 years before the Olympics and now it's a little bit tough situation for them.”

The Olympics holds a special meaning for Russian athletes like Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. For fans in North America, they get the opportunity to watch the best hockey league in the world every year. To most Americans and Canadians, winning the Stanley Cup is the pinnacle of the sport.

For Russians, however, they grow up dreaming about winning international tournaments.

“When I've grown up,” Kuznetsov said, “I've watched all the Olympic Games and the World Championship because we don't have those cable TV back home and all we have to see just how the national team played. That's how we've grown up.”

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The IOC left a path for clean Russian athletes to still participate as neutrals under the name of “Olympic Athlete from Russia.” The decision those eligible athletes now face is whether to participate as neutrals or whether to boycott the games in protest.

Despite their shock over the IOC’s decision, it was clear both Ovechkin and Kuznetsov would still support their nation’s athletes competing under a neutral flag.

 There were some reports out of Russia saying Ovechkin said the team should not go given the IOC's decision, but he denied saying that.

“I'm pretty sure they're going and I'm going to cheer for them,” he said.

Kuznetsov also echoed that sentiment saying that if he could, he would go for “the Russian fans in the tournament and if you will win the medal, they will sing the national anthem for you. That's probably what will be best when lots of Russian people will sing the national anthem.”

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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.

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