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Conference Call Transcript

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
After a hectic 36 hours in which he landed three free agents and made countless phone calls, Caps general manager George McPhee fielded questions on the events of the last two days. Here’s the transcript:

On whether Michael Nylander was the team’s top free agent target:
“Yeah. We had several players that we had interest in. We thought that because he played here before that he would be a good fit here. We know the way he plays. We thought that we had a reasonable chance of signing him.”

On why it took Nylander until day two to make up his mind:
“I just think he was comfortable with Washington. He has been here before. He liked New York, but it didn’t work out. He was familiar with Washington. After eight o’clock [Sunday] night, we were out of it. We had done as much as we could do and it came back today.”

On why Nylander had a change of heart:
“It sounds like he had a difficult time with the decision-making process. There were lots of offers and lots of interest from clubs. That’s got to be a difficult thing for a player as much as you have to be thrilled with the compensation and being able to take care of your family. Trying to make a decision that quickly with several clubs, I can’t imagine how difficult that is. You’re basically deciding where you’re going for the next three or four years between three or four clubs and it’s got to be done fast the way things go. There are times when players just don’t get a lot of time to ruminate through things and figure out what can happen. Some of the offers come out of the blue. They don’t know beforehand, before free agency, who is interested.”

On whether he was comfortable with the money and the term for a 34-year-old:
“I think we structured the contract well. I liked the way that was done. We know this player well. He seems to be a very driven guy who seems to have a lot left to prove in his own mind in this league. He reminds me a lot of an Adam Oates who seemed to be really underrated in this league. You don’t realize how good they are until you have them. Obviously Adam had a terrific career, and [Nylander] is going well, too.”

On Nylander being under the radar compared to the other free agent centers:
“I don’t know how to explain that, I just happen to think that this guy is a terrific player. When we had him he made our club a lot better. He generates things offensively. He always seems to have the puck. He’s a real puck possession guy. If you have the puck, you’re not getting scored on. He is a tremendously conditioned guy, a real driven guy. That’s why we went right at him. We certainly had some interest in the other players but just didn’t think that that was going to work. You sort of have a hunch that certain things might work. We thought that if it wasn’t going to work out in New York, that it stood a real good chance of happening here.”

On his feelings on being active in the market this year:
“We had to go through that phase where we were a young team and we had to figure out just exactly who we were and who could do what. I don’t think it made sense to really spend money and add free agents until we knew what we were and just exactly what we needed. So we went through that phase for two years and we think we did some things the past couple days that make us far more competitive and address some real needs. We’re hopefully knocking on the playoff door now.”

On the importance of a veteran Swede to mentor incoming Swedish rookie Nicklas Backstrom:
“That isn’t why we got him, but it’s nice that we did get him. He can help Nicklas speak the language and so on. There were in our minds four real good centers out there. We had a chance to get this one so we got him. It’s nice that he’ll be able to help a kid from his own country.”

On whether the Caps are finished in the free agent market:
“As I said yesterday you’re never done trying to make your team better whether you just won the Cup or you’re trying to make the playoffs. We’ll just keep working away. I don’t know whether we’ll sign another free agent. There are different ways to improve your club. It doesn’t all have to be done through free agency.”

On whether a trade is in the offing:
“I honestly don’t know. I don’t have anything going like that right now. We’re just trying to catch our breath here and then just find out what’s going on around the league and what clubs are doing. Something could happen before camp or nothing could happen before camp. There could be a lot of people fighting for jobs and that would be nice. We’ll see what develops.”

On the grind of the job:
“It’s an ‘all the time’ job. These jobs are as tough as they’ve ever been, I think. You go right from all the preparation that goes into the draft and the intensity of the draft and turn around and go into this. It’s quite a challenge. It’s what we all look forward to, it’s what we all want in life. We whine about it from time to time, but this is the kind of challenge you want.”

On possible chemistry between Ovechkin and Nylander:
“The way you construct a team is really important. Who you get and where they play and what they do is important. Basically, we needed a playmaking center. We think different things can happen here. Is Nylander going to play with Ovechkin or is he going to play with Semin? Who does Backstrom fit better with? Does Kozlov work better with one of these guys? Can Kozlov play in the middle with one of these guys? At least we have some versatility and some options. If Backstrom isn’t quite ready to do the center role, then we’ve got Kozlov to do that. If he is ready to do that, then maybe you move Kozlov to the wing, that sort of thing. We needed that playmaking center. He is a better player at that position. We’ll sort out who they play with at camp. You just never know who develops chemistry. It’s an elusive thing and you just never know before the season. You have some idea who you think might work with whom, but that that will really be determined during the preseason.”

 07-02-07 George McPhee Conference Call  
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