- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

Olie Kolzig, the Washington Capitals’ No. 1 goalie for nearly a decade, signed a two-year contract extension yesterday, ending speculation he would be dealt before the March 9 trading deadline.

The extension, which will pay the veteran $5.45 million a season, runs through the 2007-08 season when he turns 38. He is making $4.94 million this season, the last of a six-year deal.

Negotiations took about a month, and an agreement was reached Wednesday. The contract was signed yesterday.

“Simply put, he’s one of the finest athletes and gentlemen that you can find on any team in any sport,” general manager George McPhee said. “This sends a great message to his teammates and our fan base. The message is: We’re going to do this right, we’re going to build it right and get the right people here. Certainly Olie is that kind of person.”

The Caps feel Kolzig can play at least until he is 40 years old, a sentiment the goalie agrees with, but the contract was for only two years for two reasons — it gives Kolzig the chance to move on if he doesn’t like the direction the team is taking, and it doesn’t tie the team down to a longer contract.

“This is the only team I’ve known,” said Kolzig, who was drafted by the Caps in 1989 and played his first NHL game with the team that fall. However, it took him until the opening game of the 1997-98 season to shake the image of a career backup and become a full-time starter. He carried his team to the Stanley Cup Finals that season.

Heading into last night’s game, Kolzig had a save percentage of .908 and a goals-against average of 2.62 in 585 career games. He holds virtually every team goaltending record and won the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goalie, in 2000.

Kolzig has a career record of 249-242-63 after last night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Only 35 goalies in league history have won more games and only six goalies still active are ahead of him.

“The 250 is obviously a nice goal,” he said before the game, “but I plan on having a lot more wins over the next two years. It’s a nice milestone. It would be a nice bookmark, but that’s about it.”

There had been rumors during the 2003-04 season that Kolzig was among the veterans earmarked for movement during the team’s salary dump. But he (along with veterans Brendan Witt, Jeff Halpern and Dainius Zubrus) remained and continues to be one of the most popular players in Caps history.

“The grass isn’t always greener,” the goalie said.

Said McPhee: “What it does for us is solidify the most important position in the game and provide stability and leadership that we need to develop and improve this club. He’s been a very valuable member of the club for many years and an outstanding person in the community.”

He is also having a spectacular season, no matter what his mediocre statistics say. He’s 15-22 with five overtime losses, an .898 save percentage and a 3.49 goals-against average but has been mentioned often as a candidate for another Vezina because of his outstanding play that has kept his team in contention most nights.

Kolzig leaves today for Turin, Italy, where he will be the starting goalie for the German national team in the Winter Olympics.

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