With his team’s prospects off the ice Saturday afternoon and the Zamboni ready to smooth over the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, George McPhee took a deep breath.
“Summer starts tomorrow for us,” the Washington Capitals’ general manager said, “and we’re looking forward to that.”
Checking the calendar, it’s been summer for a while now, and the Caps haven’t played since May 4. But McPhee and the rest of the front office have been busy the past couple of months getting the roster ready for next season.
The Caps’ exploits July 1 and July 2 are well-documented as they grabbed veteran skaters in Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik and Joel Ward and then signed top goaltender Tomas Vokoun at a bargain-basement price. Before that, they brought back goaltending coach Dave Prior and pleased fans by introducing former Capital Olie Kolzig as Prior’s assistant.
They traded for forward Troy Brouwer at the draft, signed him, and made room under the salary cap by sending forward Eric Fehr to the Winnipeg Jets. And while development camp was ongoing, the Caps wrapped up negotiations with defenseman Karl Alzner, signing him to a two-year deal worth $2.57 million.
“We have done all that we said we would do this offseason. And perhaps even more,” owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog. “We did our best.”
Alzner’s signing capped what generally was viewed as a positive offseason for Washington. The 22-year-old defenseman got a deal he, his agent and the team were satisfied with, even if Alzner admittedly left some money on the table hoping to set up a bigger deal two summers from now.
“I knew it was probably a 98 percent chance that I’d be back. … [But] there was a point I was getting a little bit nervous that something may not get done or maybe a team would come out with some sort of offer, but I know that that is very uncommon,” Alzner said. “I’m just happy that we were able to finally agree.”
At last week’s development camp, the Caps got a glimpse of their future - and mostly distant future. Only a few - Mattias Sjogren, Cody Eakin and maybe Dmitry Orlov - have a legitimate chance of making the team this September.
But that’s by design, and a luxury to have.
“It’s nice knowing you don’t have to push them before you’re ready because that can be really detrimental to the development if you put a kid out there before he’s mentally or physically ready,” McPhee said. “We’re a good veteran team, with a nice blend of grit and size and talent and veterans and youth. “
Coach Bruce Boudreau will spend three weeks in Canada at his hockey school; Alzner is heading home to Calgary soon; McPhee will get some rest and relaxation finally, as well.
The GM doesn’t anticipate any other moves, but he’s not closing the door on a trade.
“We don’t have any discussions going on with other teams right now,” he said Saturday. “Obviously, we’ll get back on the phone in a week or so, start talking to people and see what develops, but if we come into camp with this team as is we’d be really happy.”
If anything happens, it’s a good bet it won’t be for a little while. As Matt Hendricks finished off a conversation with reporters Saturday while making a D.C. cameo at fan fest, the Caps forward had a parting message.
“Go relax,” he said. “I’ll see you in September.”