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Escape From New York

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
A day after adding former Islanders Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov as unrestricted free agents, the Caps completed a trio of free agent signings when they went to Manhattan and inked ex-Rangers center Michael Nylander to a four-year deal.

The 34-year-old Nylander is coming back for his second tour of duty in the District; he totaled 17 goals and 58 points in 74 games as a Capital in 2002-04.

Going into this summer’s free agency signing season, Nylander was Washington’s primary target. The signings of Tom Poti and Viktor Kozlov on Sunday filled needs, but the addition of Nylander on Monday addressed what was arguably the team’s most glaring need. The Caps made their first offer to the slick Swedish center on Sunday, then waited on pins and needles as other centers signed and went off the market, increasing Nylander’s visibility and desirability around the league.

Erroneous and premature reports out of Edmonton had Nylander signing with the Oilers early Monday, and many others throughout cyberspace confirmed the misinformation. The misinformation may have helped Washington land Nylander. Plenty of teams were in the market for centers, especially after the threesome of Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez found new homes on Sunday.

The aforementioned trio signed for an average of six years and $6.97 million per season while the Caps were able to get Nylander for four years and a cap hit of $4.875 million. Nylander is a bit older than the other three, but has been no less effective over the past two seasons.

Nylander has totaled 163 points over the last two campaigns, tied for 20th among all NHL players during that timespan. (Briere, Drury and Gomez do not rank among the league’s top 20 scorers over the past two seasons.) He has thrived playing alongside right wing Jaromir Jagr in New York, and should continue to do so playing with Alex Ovechkin with the Capitals.

Ovechkin was happy when his agent informed him of the Caps’ Sunday signing of Kozlov, but he was even more elated on Monday when he learned that Washington had bagged Nylander to skate alongside him for 2007-08 and beyond.

Since the conclusion of the 2006-07 season, Washington has added a pair of centers (Nylander and 2006 first-round Entry Draft selection Backstrom), a top six forward (Kozlov) and a defenseman who can help the team’s power play (Poti). Poti and Nylander figure to be effective extra-man playmakers, setting up snipers Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Ovechkin and Semin both ranked among the league’s top 10 in power play goals last season without the benefits of playing with Poti and Nylander.

NHL Scoring Leaders Over Last Two Seasons
1. Joe Thornton 239
2. Sidney Crosby 222
3. Jaromir Jagr 219
4. Dany Heatley 208
5. Alex Ovechkin 198
6. Marc Savard 193
7. Marian Hossa 192
8. Daniel Alfredsson 190
9. Joe Sakic 187
10. Teemu Selanne 184
11. Vinny Lecavalier 183
12. Olli Jokinen 180
13. Jason Spezza 177
14. Pavel Datsyuk 174
14. Ilya Kovalchuk 174
16. Erik Staal 170
17. Patrick Marleau 164
18. Andy McDonald 163
18. Martin St. Louis 163
20. J. Cheechoo 162
20. Michael Nylander 162
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