Caps star left wing Alex Ovechkin
officially signed on with Team Russia today for the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Quebec City/Halifax. Two final hurdles were surmounted on Tuesday to enable Ovechkin’s participation.
First, the Russian Federation agreed to insure Ovechkin’s 13-year, $124-million contract, the largest in NHL history. Once that detail was attended to, the Capitals granted Ovechkin their permission to participate in the tournament.
When queried about his possible participation in the Worlds last week, Ovechkin indicated that it would hinge upon Team Russia’s ability and willingness to insure his NHL contract.
In anticipation of those conditions being met, Ovechkin reported to Montreal yesterday to meet the Team Russia squad, which was flying over from Moscow. He joined Caps teammates Alexander Semin
and Sergei Fedorov and Nashville’s Alexander Radulov as late additions to the Team Russia roster. All four players played in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The addition of those four players brings the Russian roster to 29 players: three goaltenders, nine defensemen and 17 forwards. Only 20 of the 26 skaters can be registered for preliminary round play. Russia’s first preliminary round match is Friday against Italy.
Among the players already on Team Russia’s roster is goaltender Simeon Varlamov, Washington’s first-round choice (23rd overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Ovechkin played in the 2007 World Championships in his native Moscow, but was used as a fourth-line winger and on the team’s second power play unit. He had one goal and three points in his limited role on Team Russia last year.
This marks the sixth consecutive spring in which Ovechkin has represented his country in the World Championships. He was named to the World Championship All-Star Team in 2006.
Besides the familiar faces adorned in Team Russia sweaters at the Worlds, Ovechkin will also see several of his Washington teammates on the opposite benches at this spring’s tournament.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom
will play for Team Sweden, Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet will mind the twine for his native France, Washington defenseman Mike Green
will represent Team Canada, Caps winger Tomas Fleischmann will skate for the Czech Republic, and defenseman Sami Lepisto will don Team Finland’s sweater.
Nine Caps will play in the tournament this spring, and ex-Caps head coach Glen Hanlon will be behind the bench for Team Belarus as an assistant to head coach Curt Fraser. Prior to Fraser taking the reins for the 2007 World Championships, Hanlon coached Team Belarus at the Worlds in 2005 and 2006.