Hello all! I was going to use my first post as a Hockey Goddess to introduce myself, but I have more important hockey-related things to discuss as of now!
Nicklas Backstrom (Annalisk19@flickr.com)
The big news in the World of the Washington Capitals is the press conference to be held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex later today (5/17/2010) at 10:30 A.M., to make “an important announcement.” Well, the rumor is, of course, that it will be the glorious announcement of the long-anticipated contract extension for the Caps’ elite first-line center, Nicklas Backstrom. Any and all hockey fans should know this is a critical signing that is practically the key to the Capitals’ success. Caps fans — myself obviously included — have been biting our nails all season long watching the young Swedish Center put up career numbers.
Nicklas Backstrom (Annalisk19@flickr.com)
It was almost bittersweet for me, knowing with every point he put on the board this past season, it seemed like the cost of his contract would go up simultaneously a few more dollars. I began to wonder if we were going to be able to pay Backstrom what he deserves after taking a quick look at Washington’s salary cap…. $30+ million potentially wrapped up in four players alone, with Varlamov and Neuvirth coming up for contract extensions as well next season? Ai yai yai…. but I’m not going to fret over such things any longer. As a fan, such matters are out of my hands. I believe Backstrom will stay and take a discount, but the waiting is always murder on one’s mental stability.
I do believe this means Alexander Semin will be out the door by the trade deadline of 2011, or perhaps after the 2010-2011 season has come to a close and he officially becomes a UFA. This alone will free up the $6.5 million he’s slated to make this upcoming season until summer 2011 when his contract expires. However, that doesn’t really help the fact that whatever Backstrom’s contract extension will be (because we all know he can’t leave or Caps fans might burn Capitol Hill and McPhee’s house) will take effect this coming season though… nauseated yet? My bets are he goes to the Rangers, or a West Coast Canadian team. If not, he will skip home to the KHL. Mark my words. But back to the potential excitement tomorrow may bring….
Marcus Johansson, Draft Day 2009 (Getty Images)
Spoke with Anders Backstrom, Nicklas’ father, on Saturday along with Caps prospect and fellow Swede, Marcus Johansson. Mr. Backstrom was very pleased to tell me the Capitals would be signing him to a standard three-year entry-level contract this highly anticipated Monday morning with a blushing Johansson off to the side. As a shameless supporter of all Swedish Caps, I was beyond happy to have him officially within the grasp of the Caps.
Besides being a Swede, Johansson possesses very good hands, speed, and vision on the ice much like Nicklas Backstrom. The young center played with both the 2009 and 2010 Swedish National Teams in the World Junior Championships. The Swedes won silver in 2009 and in 2010, with Johansson as Team Captain, took home bronze. Marcus has all the talent to have a bright future in the NHL, and I’m hoping it will be in a Capitals uniform as our second line center. I must add he was much shorter in person than I thought he would be. Go figure. Oh, but you didn’t hear from me we are signing him before it is supposed to be officially announced…
Perhaps another young Swedish prospect of the Caps most have forgotten about is the son of legendary Capitals player (and current Team Sweden Head Coach) Bengt Gustafsson, Anton Gustafsson. Taken by the Caps in the first round of the 2008 draft at 21st overall, Anton was hoped to be a mirror of his father where hockey smarts and talent are concerned. Unfortunately, the 20 year old has not shown much of this in his short career thanks to being plagued with numerous injuries (including a concussion sustained during the Capitals’ Rookie Camp in July of 2009 – courtesy of the crossbar).
Anton and Bengt Gustafsson (AP)
Anton or “AnGus”, was signed to an entry level contract in May 2009, and played for Borås HC of the Swedish Second Tier League, HockeyAllsvenskan. He was assigned to the Capitals’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears for the entirety of the 2009-2010 pre-season. However, it was quickly decided Gustafsson wouldn’t receive ample ice time playing for the Bears, and was loaned out in October 2009 to his current team, Borås HC. He played 34 games and netted 6 goals for 18 points for the 2009-10 season. Hopefully he can overcome injuries and expectations to become an NHL player like his father, but only time will tell.
In the meantime, let us all pray that by the time 10:30 A.M. comes and goes today, the Caps will be (re)signing not one, but two Swedes.
Let it be so George McPhee, let it be so.
- Goddess Annika
Photos: Nicklas Backstrom by Goddess Annika. Anton and Bengt Gustafsson from The Associated Press. Marcus Johansson from Getty Images.