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Stanley Cup Final

Caps take care of business with Ovechkin

Friday, 01.11.2008 / 12:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin will remain
in Washington for the next 13 seasons of
his NHL career, at the cost of $124 million.
It’s fitting that hockey, the world’s fastest sport, has had a busy week, with developments happening at warp speed. In no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the stories in the headlines.

Signing Ovechkin a Capital idea -- We can thank Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for sparing us from months of useless rumors.

Signing “AO” to a long-term deal now denies the rumor mill tons of grist about Team A, Team B and Team C readying offer sheets for Ovechkin, who could have become a restricted free agent this summer.

Would another team have made a move on Ovechkin? Now we’ll never know, but you have to admit the singular Ovechkin would have been one tempting target for such a move, although the Caps insisted from the get-go that any such offer would be matched.

By taking care of business now, the Capitals keep their franchise player for the foreseeable future while also keeping one of the most marketable and talented players to come along in a long time. Secondly, by taking care of business with Ovechkin now, the Capitals now have a frame of reference regarding where they will be in regards to the salary cap in planning other moves.

Deal or no deal -- Mats Sundin has been down this road before, hearing his name associated with trade rumors. This time around, the rumor mill is attaching a benevolent reason for leaving – namely, to join a Stanley Cup contender.

For his part, Sundin, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, has said pretty loudly that he wants to stay put.

Of course when the questioning starts with, “If it helps the team, would you accept a trade?” it becomes all the more difficult for him.

“I mean, if they came and asked me, I’d have to think about whatever question they asked me but … my, ah … in my heart, I don’t want to play anywhere else the rest of this season or any other season. I don’t want to go anywhere else and that’s not going to change.

“If (the team) were to ask me, I’d obviously have to sit down and think about what my options are. But I know in my heart that I want to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I haven’t talked to my agent (J.P. Barry) about anything else, and my agent knows that, too. I have no second thoughts or hidden agendas in terms of what I want to do. I live in Toronto and I want to stay a Maple Leaf. That’s my only focus.”

Elite meet in Ottawa -- A Red Wings-Senators meeting is about as good as it gets these days. The top clubs in each conference meet Saturday in Ottawa, and to make the matchup all the more appetizing, Red Wings great Steve Yzerman, who grew up in Nepean, Ontario, will be on hand to drop the opening faceoff. Yzerman is being inducted into the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.

”It wouldn’t quite be right to say it’s just another game,” Senators coach John Paddock said. “It’s the two first-place teams in the conferences. But realistically, I think Buffalo and Montreal and Philadelphia are more important games than Detroit (because they are within the Eastern Conference). I would love to play Detroit again after Saturday night ... because that would mean we’re in the finals.”

Coyotes are a howl -- No team has enjoyed a more surprising first half than the Phoenix Coyotes.

Think back to the pre-season, when no one gave the Coyotes a ghost of a chance of winning much of anything this season. But the addition of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a growing core of young players has made a big difference in the desert.

“When you’re winning, it’s really easy,” Shane Doan told the Arizona Republic. “We knew we were going to count on our young guys a lot, and they were going to be given every opportunity to be successful.

”And you know what? We’ve been very happy as a veteran group to see the way the young guys are handling it, the way that they’re playing. It makes it easy with the group we have.”

Mutual admiration society -- Chances are, Sidney Crosby and Vincent Lecavalier are going to be vying for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP come season’s end.

Both players seem to be charter members of a mutual admiration society.

“He’s so determined,” Lecavalier told reporters. “And his skating, it’s just sick how quick and how strong he is on skates. He’s not a big guy, but he’s so strong on the ice, nobody can move him.”

“I have a lot of respect for the way he plays,” Crosby countered. “He’s a skilled guy. He plays with a little bit of grit and I think he’s pretty complete. He penalty-kills. I like watching guys who are complete like that, who can play in a lot of different situations, and he’s that guy. He’s as skilled as they come, but in the last minute of the game, he’s usually out there, too, and that’s always a good sign.”

Change pays off -- Doug Armstrong didn’t allow any goals this season when he was general manager of the Dallas Stars, so it’s tough to lay the blame for the team’s poor start on him, but since the change to the co-GM stewardship of Les Jackson and Brett Hull, the Stars have been on fire.

Through Tuesday, Dallas is 17-7 since Hull and Jackson took over on Nov. 13. That records includes a six-game winning streak and a recent four-game losing streak that ended with a 3-1 win Monday over Minnesota.

Sabres' defenseman Teppo Numminen has put his
comeback attempt from open-heart surgery on hold.

Numminen needs more time -- Had Teppo Numminen returned to the Buffalo Sabres’ lineup this season after undergoing open-heart surgery during the pre-season, it would have been remarkable.

After some optimistic talk last week, word is Numminen needs some more time to recover and probably won’t play at all this season.

Sabres doctors advised the 39-year-old defenseman that he needed to wait six months from his Sept. 17 surgery for his chest cavity to sufficiently heal before he may get cleared for contact. That puts him at mid-March, and the regular season ends April 5, so the window is a short one for a return.

“Doctors talked to doctors and they weren’t confident enough the chest has healed to be able to play,” Numminen said. “So it’s really about the chest. The heart thing is great and doing well. There’s just a scar from the chest. It’s something I didn’t expect but we have to regroup.”

Numminen said his heart isn’t the problem, it’s just getting sufficiently healed from the procedure to play pro hockey.

“Things were going really well,” Numminen said.

Staying home -- Roberto Luongo will not be in Atlanta for the All-Star Game for a very good reason – his family.

Instead, the Vancouver Canucks’ star goalie will spend time with his pregnant wife, Gina, in Florida, where she has been staying this season. The baby is due in April.

“I struggled with this decision,” Luongo said. “But I think family right now is more important to me and this is a good opportunity for me to spend some time with my wife and the baby.

”My wife is in Florida, she’s been there all year except for a few weeks in November, and it’s a good chance for me to spend some quality time with her, something I haven’t done all year. It hasn’t been an easy situation to be apart like that and that’s why I came to this decision.”

Be on the lookout --Former NHL player Sergio Momesso understandably is distraught after some important pieces of his memorabilia collection were stolen from his home last Saturday night.

Gone are three of his NHL jerseys – one from the Canadiens, one from the Canucks and one from the St. Louis Blues that was autographed by teammate Brett Hull. Also taken was his 1986 Stanley Cup ring.

Anyone with any information or any leads is asked to call Info-Crime at (514) 393-1133, or Station 1 at (514) 280-0101.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery