- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A few months ago, when Olie Kolzig wondered what direction the Washington Capitals were taking, the Caps wondered the same thing about their veteran goalie.

What evolved was a unique arrangement: Kolzig promised to remain committed to the Caps as long as the team remained committed to building a contender. The arrangement was structured around a two-year contract extension that ties the goalie to the team through the 2007-08 season.

“I told [general manager George McPhee] that I was committed to staying in Washington as long as it was committed to putting together a contender again,” Kolzig said. “He told me right there and then that everybody in the organization was more optimistic than they had been early in the season and they were going to make improvements [for] next season.”

Kolzig will not be a pseudo-assistant general manager, but he will be available to be consulted on possible personnel moves or to make suggestions.

“Why wouldn’t we solicit his opinion? Why wouldn’t we want to discuss this with him?” McPhee said yesterday. “We respect his opinion, and we respect him. He’s a big part of our competitiveness. We wanted to talk to him [about personnel]. We wanted to keep him, and we got both done.”

The Caps are rebuilding almost from scratch. Kolzig is the lone holdover from the 1998 team that made the Stanley Cup Finals. There are 18 former first-round choices on the roster, but there are at least a half-dozen holes that have to be filled down the road. The team would like to build from within, but the right mix may not be present.

“You have to bring in the right people,” Kolzig said. “You don’t want to mess with the chemistry and the identity we’ve established. George is searching for the right people not only skill-wise but also character-wise. He said he is committed to upgrading the team — his goal next season is to make the playoffs and within a couple three years to be a contender again. That’s all I wanted to hear.”

McPhee said there was no hard and fast timetable and that the club had no plans to go on a free agent spending binge. Team sources said the payroll is about $25.5 million this season, and it won’t make the financial and personnel errors that have left other teams strapped.

“Olie’s a guy we can trust,” McPhee said on what prompted the move. “You can trust his character and leadership on and off the ice at all times. We feel, as Olie does, that we’re not that far off. The plan has been explained, and we won’t deviate because it’s working. There were a lot of unknowns at first, but now we know the players, we like the character, the competitiveness, the speed, and our plan is to continue with our plan.”

Said Kolzig: “If George has questions about a certain guy, I’m sure he’d come to [me and team captain Jeff Halpern] for answers. We get to know the players in the league through buddies. If he has a question about character or whether a guy would fit in, I’m sure he’ll ask.”

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