- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2008

George McPhee‘s mission this summer was to keep his Washington Capitals team from last season as close to intact as possible, and Wednesday was a big step toward doing that.

The Caps agreed to a one-year, $4 million pact with center Sergei Fedorov and signed forward Brooks Laich to a three-year, $6.2 million contract. As of Wednesday afternoon, Fedorov’s contract was awaiting the completion of some paperwork before being finalized.

“[Fedorov] is a good player and just about as smart as they come, and he was a terrific leader for us. It is nice to bring him back,” said McPhee, the Caps’ general manager. “In talking to Sergei he was pretty firm about what he wanted and what his value is. He’s been a great player in this league. We showed him respect and made it work.”

Fedorov, who turns 39 in December, had 11 goals and 41 points last season. He totaled two goals and 13 points in 18 games for the Caps after they acquired from him Columbus at the trade deadline.

Joining the Caps seemed to rejuvenate the 1994 Hart Trophy winner. He also served as a mentor for the team’s young players.

“I saw the ability on the ice, and I didn’t think much about the leadership factor, although I should have,” McPhee said. “He was incredible, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with him. The way our players talked about him in our season-ending meetings made it clear that we have to have him back.”

The 25-year-old Laich set career highs in goals (21) and points (37) last season, more than doubling his goal output from the first 151 games of his career.

Laich is one of the most versatile players on the team. Last season he moved back and forth in the Caps’ lineup - both from a checking line to a scoring unit and from center to wing.

“He developed really well under [Caps coach] Bruce [Boudreau], and Bruce expects to play him a lot this year, so we thought his production will only increase, so it was time to get him on a longer-term deal,” McPhee said.

Added Boudreau: “He was a guy that filled every position for us last year. If we needed a left wing, he played left wing. If we needed a center, he played center - whether it was the second line, fourth line, first power-play unit. He killed penalties. … I just thought he was a great piece of our puzzle.”

His willingness to stand in front of the net was also a boon for Washington’s power play, which struggled at several points. Laich finished the year with eight extra-man markers, tied for third on the team with defenseman Mike Green.

Before last season, Laich went to arbitration and was awarded a one-year, $725,000 deal. His agent, Roland Thompson, had filed on Laich’s behalf again this summer, but the two sides worked out a deal.

“Arbitration is not the first choice for either the player or the club, but it is a way to get the deal done,” Laich said. “We reached an agreement, and I was happy with it. They wanted to go three years and were happy to go three years. I don’t think I’ve hit my offensive peak, and I think I can still get better.”

The only players left unsigned from last season are defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, center Boyd Gordon and right wing Eric Fehr.

Morrisonn also has elected for salary arbitration and will have a hearing later this month if a deal isn’t signed. Gordon and Fehr have until July 15 to sign, accept their qualifying offers or risk entering training camp without a contract like Tomas Fleischmann did a year ago.

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