Left wing Chris Simon and the Washington Capitals agreed to end their disagreement over the weekend, and a compromise was struck, with the two sides basically splitting the difference.
The Caps said yesterday Simon signed a two-year contract, paying him $2.25 million for each season with the club holding an option at $2.5 million for a third season. Simon was expected to be at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Md., today for his physical, ending a 46-day holdout, the second longest of his career.
When the 6-foot-4, 235-pound wing plays will depend on what kind of shape he is in. He has told friends he has been skating and working out, but, as coach Ron Wilson noted yesterday, doing that alone and in a team atmosphere are two entirely different things.
Simon had a career season last year, playing in more games (75), scoring more goals (29), assisting on more goals (20) and getting more points (49) than ever before. He led the team in goals and power-play goals (seven).
The Caps are hoping the settlement resolves a distraction if there was one that may have been part of the reason the team stumbled out to a 1-3-3-1 start.
“I don’t think it was that big of a distraction,” goalie Olie Kolzig said yesterday. “We all know it’s part of the business; we just have to play. Regardless of who’s in the lineup, we have to win. I know I still have to stop the puck with Simon in the lineup or without him.”
However, the team started the season with Kolzig out with surgery, Simon holding out and Sergei Gonchar, the leading scorer among defensemen, unavailable. There also was the Bondra matter the right wing has asked for a trade, an issue that is still unresolved.
“It seems we allow little distractions to bother our play,” Wilson said yesterday. “Now, with one exception, we’ve eliminated most distractions so it’s time to play.”
General manager George McPhee said he thought the two sides had been close for about a week and then got a call Sunday from Simon’s agent saying the deal was done.
“It was the best either side was going to be able to do,” McPhee said.
Simon made $1.32 million last season and was asking in the vicinity of $3 million, while the Caps were offering about $1.75 million plus a load of incentives. The team wanted him to show he could stay healthy for another season and still make a significant offensive contribution before signing him to a long-term deal with a heavy price tag.
“When you look at it there aren’t many players like him in the league,” McPhee said, referring to the player’s well-established reputation as a fierce fighter and his newly established reputation for scoring. “He’s kind of unique, and it’s hard to find comparables for this type of player. That’s why the negotiations were so hard.”
Simon was a work in progress last season, advancing from the fourth to the first line. He scored 10 goals in the first half of the season. Once he settled in with center Adam Oates, he scored 19 in the second half, when the Caps posted the best record in the NHL.
“I’ve been saying all along that I think if we had him from the beginning we’d probably have a couple more wins and things would be a lot rosier, but that’s business,” Oates said. “When you start the year … without three top guys, it definitely affects the chemistry. You can patch the hole, but you’ve got to be realistic: We’re not the deepest team in the league and to miss three of your top dogs is tough.”
Notes Defenseman Ken Klee had minor wrist surgery yesterday to remove a piece of floating cartilage; it is not known how much time he will miss, if any. Gonchar, down with the flu, was excused from practice.