Capitals

Unlike Seaver, Gooden and Strawberry, Wright stays

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Unlike Seaver, Gooden and Strawberry, Wright stays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) David Wright wore a shirt with blue. His tie was bright orange.

While Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry left, Wright is following through on his goal of playing his entire career with the New York Mets.

``I've never pictured myself in a different uniform,'' he said Wednesday at a news conference to talk about his $138 million, eight-year contract, the largest in team history. ``It wouldn't be as meaningful, I think, if I were to win somewhere else.''

Playing in the shadow of the Yankees, the Mets have won just two World Series titles and none since 1986. Given their history, it seemed appropriate that Wright said, ``I've wanted to be here though the good times, through the bad times,'' echoing a line from the song ``I'm Still Here'' from the Stephen Sondheim musical ``Follies.''

Wright is a six-time All-Star who turns 30 on Dec. 20. He is the team's all-time hits leader and has a .301 career batting average.

The third baseman has never been to the World Series, falling one win short in 2006. He's seen Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez depart as the Mets slashed payroll during the fallout from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme that cost the Wilpon family, which owns the team, hundreds of millions of dollars.

``It just feels like there's so much unfinished business and I'd like to finish what I've started,'' Wright said. ``Honestly, it wouldn't mean as much to me winning somewhere else as it would obviously winning here.''

Talks began during the first week of October, when the Mets played a season-ending series at Miami.

``We went for a late bite to eat, couldn't find a place to eat, ended up at a burger joint, had a beer,'' said Jeff Wilpon, the owner's son and the team's chief operating officer. ``And I said, `Listen, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure this gets done.'''

Wright, like most everyone around the Mets, worried about the team's finances. He wanted assurances the Wilpons wouldn't sell the team.

After the season, Wright met with general manager Sandy Alderson for a round of golf and a late lunch-early dinner at the Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach, Va., near Wright's home.

``It was surprisingly close,'' Alderson said of the golf score.

The discussion was serious.

``I was as brutally honest with him as I could be. And I think he was as brutally honest with me as he could be,'' Wright said.

Assured that the team had a commitment to winning and sufficient funds to follow through, Wright gave agents Sam and Seth Levinson the go-ahead. Wright said the deal came together during a 12-hour period last Thursday, starting when Seth Levinson had lunch with Alderson at the Loews Regency Hotel in Manhattan. Two conference calls followed the lunch, and the sides broke to go to a benefit for Mets employee Shannon Forde, who was diagnosed last summer with breast cancer.

Another conference call began at midnight, and the agreement came together. Wright gets $11 million next year, down from the $16 million he had been scheduled to make. His salaries will be $20 million in each of the following five seasons, $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020. Some of the money will be deferred, and he gets full no-trade protection.

Wright looked to Cal Ripken Jr., Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter as his models, players spending their entire careers with one franchise. Growing up he had rooted for the Mets because their Triple-A farm team was in Norfolk, Va.

``I think there's something to be said for that, and I'm very proud of that,'' he said, ``to be able to be drafted at 18 by this organization, groomed, developed, make your big league debut with your favorite team growing up, having the opportunity for my family and friends to almost start bleeding blue and orange. So yeah, it was a no-brainer for me.''

Quietly watching from the side of the podium with a proud smile were Wright's father, mother and girlfriend Molly Beers.

Rhon Wright said his son's talent and dedication were apparent as a boy back home in Virginia. He recalled David playing ball with a bunch of 6-year-olds on a neighborhood team assembled by his wife, Elisa.

``Even at that age, I'd say it was championship caliber,'' he said.

``Darn tootin'!'' added Elisa.

Wright got past last year's criticism from Fred Wilpon, who in an interview with The New Yorker called him ``a really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.''

``If we didn't have such a strong relationship, that would be something that would bother me,'' Wright said. ``But at the time, we had lost however many in a row. We had gotten off to a terrible start and he's a competitor. It would have been more odd if he just sat back and took the losing and got used to the losing.''

Wright is the leader of these Mets. Jeff Wilpon said he provides ``leadership without having to have a `C' on his chest.''

The next logical step is to make Wright captain. The only players to hold the title for the Mets were Keith Hernandez (1987-89), Gary Carter (co-captain 1988-89) and John Franco (2001-04). The decision rests with manager Terry Collins.

``If the players come in the spring and say, listen, we really want David to be the captain and be named the captain, then I'm sure Terry will bring that back and we'll do something like that,'' Jeff Wilpon said. ``But for right now, to me David is the captain. He's the longest-tenured and he commands the respect in the clubhouse.''

NOTES: Alderson said the Mets could leave the winter meetings without a decision on R.A. Dickey. The NL Cy Young Award winner wants a new contract for beyond 2013, and New York gauged what it could get in a trade if it doesn't reach a new deal. ``They want more than we're willing to give right now. We want to do it for less than they want to accept right now. Somewhere in between there's probably a deal to be done,'' Wilpon said.

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Caps GM Brian MacLellan addresses latest Andre Burakovsky trade rumors

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USATSI

Caps GM Brian MacLellan addresses latest Andre Burakovsky trade rumors

Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky dodges trade rumors like Indiana Jones escaped giant rolling stones.

When Burakovsky made it through the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline still with Washington it appeared he was here to stay a while longer. He even played better down the stretch. But that might not have been enough to save him. 

Multiple NHL sources said Wednesday that Burakovsky would likely be dealt at this weekend’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. There is no question he is drawing interest from teams around the league.  

“We'd like to keep him around, but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a conference call on Thursday. “But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

MacLellan, as blunt a general manager as there is in the NHL, might be employing semantics there. The Capitals are trying to get what they can and won’t undercut their own leverage by saying Burakovsky is out the door.

Burakovsky has frustrated coaches and executives alike in Washington. He flashes great potential and has the pedigree to be a solid middle-six forward. But he’s been stuck on 12 goals three years in a row and can’t seem to find a consistent role. Last year he was a healthy scratch six times. 

Injuries played some role in that in previous years. But Burakovsky hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities, either. Yet he has also come up with some incredible goals. Three times he’s scored in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. No one can forget his goals against Tampa Bay in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final that secured Washington’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s also entering his age-25 season and had 17 goals in his second season in the NHL. 

But with a $3.25 million qualifying offer due Monday and the salary cap possibly tighter than expected, Washington might not have a choice even if it has a last-second change of heart on trading Burakovsky. 

It’s not know exactly what kind of deal the Capitals are pursuing: A one-for-one deal with a player who has his own issues? A mix of draft picks and prospects who won’t contribute to a team in “win-now” mode? Washington could always pull back – as they did at the deadline. But without knowing what MacLellan feels he needs from a Burakovsky trade it’s hard to know what would give him another chance to stay.

MacLellan wouldn’t even commit to tendering Burakovsky that $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday’s deadline. He said Washington will take a look at the salary cap once the NHL gets around to announcing it hopefully by Saturday at the draft. Then they’ll check back with the agents of all their RFAs – Jakub Vrana is safe - and decide how to proceed. 

But if they don’t qualify Burakovsky, the one other RFA they have the rights to who would draw interest around the league, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign anywhere. Hard to see how that benefits the Capitals to lose an asset they claim to value for nothing. Time is running short.

“Andre had a frustrating year this year, but I think he finished it up well,” MacLellan said. “I think from the trade deadline on, I thought he had a good playoffs. We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player.”

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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a number in his head. It is the most important one for any NHL executive heading into the offseason: $83 million. 

That was the expected salary cap for the 2019-20 season and – with some small margin for error – the amount MacLellan and his staff used to formulate their offseason plan. But it is June 20 and the number that was originally at $83 million could drop to as low as $81.5 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. 

Given that Washington has some carryover for bonuses and overages from last season worth about $1.150 million, it could be working with a cap number as low as $80.35 million. That is not ideal for a team where every dollar could spell the difference between upgrading its middle-six forwards or adding a veteran fourth-line player. 

The NHL is expected to come to an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association soon and let teams know the number by Saturday, the second day of the entry draft in Vancouver. That’s a few days later than normal, however, and forces GMs to make decisions during the draft regarding trades and picking prospects they otherwise might not.   

"It's frustrating. We've been projecting using that 83 (million dollars) number for the last part of the year,” MacLellan told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “At some point, we switched back to the 82.5 because there was some rumblings there, and now it seems to be going back a little further. I know it seems like it's not a large amount of dollars, but it does impact teams that are right at the number as far as salary.”

On an $82 million cap, the Capitals have about $9.7 million in room according to the great web site CapFriendly.com. But they need to sign restricted free agent Jakub Vrana and add four other bottom-six forwards and a depth defenseman. That is an extremely tight fit and might rule out some free agent options MacLellan had interest in. 

The free-agent “interview” period begins Sunday when teams can talk to agents of pending free agents and gauge what their demands will be and if they are a fit when the market opens on July 1. 

That, in turn, effects negotiations with Vrana and any other RFAs (Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos) that Washington might want to bring back. Burakovsky is likely to be traded at the draft this weekend, according to multiple NHL sources with knowledge of Washington’s thinking. A further budget crunch would seem to seal his fate.  

MacLellan wouldn’t confirm that and even said “we like the player.” But Burakovsky is due a $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday so the decision might have been made for them. If the cap is the worst-case scenario ($81.5 million) the Capitals are in a real bind. But they’d like to know for sure.   

“When you see it go down to maybe 81.5, I think there's a pause on our part,” MacLellan said. “We want to see the number before we move forward because it's going to affect our roster decisions even on the bottom end - on fourth line and what we have to do going forward because the margins are that slim for us."

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