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Laich ecstatic with long term deal with Capitals

by Emily Kaplan /
Brooks Laich can vividly remember the first time he walked into the Verizon Center seven years ago, just after he was acquired by the Capitals in a trade with Ottawa.

He recalls being greeted by Captials general manager George McPhee, who shook his hand and said, "Welcome to Washington, we hope to have you here for the next 15 years."

At the conclusion of the 2010-11 season -- with Laich's contract soon expiring and the prospect of free agency looming -- McPhee asked the 28-year-old forward what his plans were.

"I told him, 'I never forgot that comment you told me,' " Laich said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "And I wanted to stay in Washington."

On Tuesday, both Laich and McPhee got what they hoped for.

The Washington Capitals signed Laich to a six-year contract extension, taking what was expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents off the market.

Laich, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, finished fourth on Washington in points (48), fifth in goals (16) and third in assists (32) last season while posting a plus-14 rating.

According to several reports, the contract is worth $27 million, with a $4.5 million cap hit.

"I knew all along that Washington wanted me back, and I wanted to be back," Laich said. "It was just a matter of figuring out the details."

Though the deal was announced on Tuseday, Laich said he reached a verbal agreement with the club a few days ago – before the NHL Entry Draft.

Laich said he wanted a deal done before the Draft, because he didn't want Washington going to into the weekend thinking he would test the open market, feeling pressure to make a move before he did.

"At the Draft, anything can happen," Laich said. "You see what [the Flyers] did."

Laich said that he had no intentions of entering July 1 without a contract, "or pushing Washington to the very edge."

"There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else," he said.

Laich has been with the organization for the last seven seasons, and has played in all 82 games in three of the last four campaigns. In addition, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound center finished the 2010-11 campaign fifth on the team in hits (113) and won 51.3 percent of his faceoffs. Laich was second on the team in points during the playoffs (7) while leading the Caps with six postseason assists in nine games.

During the regular season, Laich finished first among Capitals forwards in shorthanded ice time per game. Washington's penalty kill ranked second in the NHL during the regular season.

"We are very pleased to have Brooks Laich continue his career as a Washington Capital," McPhee said in a statement. "Brooks has excelled as one of the League's finer two-way players and is just entering his prime. His combination of size, speed, versatility and leadership makes him a valuable part of our club."
With the new contract, the Capitals have now three forwards -- Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Laich -- signed at least through the 2016-17 season.

That was one of the main reasons Laich was committed to staying. Ovechkin, Washington's captain, is 25 years old while Backstrom is just 23.

"If you look at some of the other teams that are Cup contenders, San Jose, Detroit, their best players are already late in their 20s, early 30s," Laich said. "Our core is still young and still getting better. The main core of this team is very young, and if you can keep that together, you're looking at a potential to win a championship for the next 10 years rather than just a window in the next two to three years."
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