- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

The influx has begun from Russia, Saskatchewan, Sweden, Colorado and more than a few other far-flung points tanned players joining their Washington Capitals teammates who make the area their year-round home.

More than a dozen of the 60-plus players expected for camp, which begins Sept. 9, are already working out five days a week in informal drills led by Vezina Trophy winner Olie Kolzig. Yesterday the players were joined by defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who is waiting to negotiate a new contract.

"Business is business; until we sign a deal, [my working out] is not possible," Gonchar said at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Md. Gonchar has been to only one Washington training camp last season's since 1995-96. He has held out twice and once was a member of Russia's World Cup of Hockey team.

"I would love to be here now, but sometimes the things you want to do don't happen," he said. "Sometimes you have to do things [hold out] to get a deal done."

Left wing Chris Simon and center Jan Bulis are the only other Caps from last season's team without contracts. Bulis is the least urgent of the trio; he is recuperating from shoulder surgery four months ago and isn't expected to play until late October.

"We expect negotiations on Simon and Gonchar to begin this week," general manager George McPhee said yesterday. "There's no hidden agenda; these negotiations aren't very complicated. It's simply a matter of exchanging numbers and, if the numbers submitted by both sides aren't that far apart, you can get a deal done in an hour."

Simon bettered his career highs across the board last season with a team-high 29 goals and 49 points, the latter total third on the club. Seven of his goals came on the power play, the primary area where the team has to improve this season. Simon's agent will argue that his client should be rewarded for what he did, while the Caps will argue that he has done that only once and they want to see it again before shelling out huge dollars.

Gonchar had 18 goals and 54 points in 73 games, but he showed very little consistency. He would score five in three games, then go three weeks with no goals, which cost him ice time in tight situations. That Gonchar may someday develop into a bona fide NHL star is not in dispute, but he must find consistency to achieve that goal.

Black skating without pain

James Black, who missed 33 games last season with a broken leg, has skated for two days and reports no pain. The left wing had hoped to be back in time for the playoffs last season, but severe pain in his leg prevented him from getting back in shape.

"I feel really good right now," he said. "I'm not in the usual shape I am at this time of the year because I've had to stay off my leg [he normally plays semipro soccer all summer], but we have nearly three weeks before camp starts. I should be OK."

Slap shots

Bjorn Nord, the 29-year-old defenseman from Sweden the Caps took in the final round of the draft, will be at training camp but probably won't be there for long. He has signed a contract to play with a team in the German elite league and apparently will play for the Caps only if there is an emergency.

While he is under an NHL contract with Washington, the wording apparently allows him to return to Europe to compete if he is not with the parent team. That way he would avoid shuffling back and forth between Washington and Portland, Maine, and suffer through the experience of busing around to stops like Newfoundland in February… .

Coach Ron Wilson, a scratch golfer, won the Ice Hockey in Harlem golf tournament for the second straight year. It is played at Winged Foot outside New York City, where Wilson shot a 73 Monday, the low gross of the day. He shot a 70 last year.

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