A Second Act in D.C. for Sergei Fedorov? Let’s Hope So

Likely Sergei Fedorov, in the initial hours and days after arriving in Washington late this past February, thinking ahead then to what was almost certainly his final game as a Capital on April 5, gave some thought to returning home to his native Russia and signing one last lucrative pro contract before hanging them up — or finishing the 2007-08 NHL as a rental Cap and retiring altogether. And who could have blamed him? He’s as decorated a star player as we’ve seen in the last quarter century: a six-time All-Star; a Hart Trophy winner; a Selke Trophy winner; thrice a Stanley Cup champion. What’s left to accomplish here?
Additionally, Sergei’s brother Fedor, a 2001 draft pick of Vancouver, plays in the Russian Super League with Moscow Dynamo, and older brother has spoken publicly of his wish to play with younger brother before retiring. Again, who could blame him?
And yet from his national team and NHL teammate Alexander Ovechkin we learned this week that Fedorov is keenly interested in playing more hockey as a Washington Capital. That’s right, one of the most decorated superstars in hockey of the past quarter century, having accomplished really everything an NHL player could in a career, wants one more run at glory, in the District of Columbia.
The upshot of which is this: Sergei Fedorov believes he has something still to accomplish as an NHLer, as a Cap.
My how hockey times have changed.
Traditionally, the circumstances surrounding a player like Fedorov and the Capitals this summer would have made resigning thoughts ludicrous and impractical. The Capitals, after all, already have a healed up Michael Nylander under contract and star-in-the-making Nicklas Backstrom to center their top two lines. They have, including bonuses, about $8 million in centers for their top two lines next season. Behind them they have exceptionally capable and emerging talent in Brooks Laich; one of the better young defensive forwards in the entire NHL in Boyd Gordon; and in Dave Steckel a top-notch guy on draws and, like Gordon, an exceptional penalty killer. Fedorov is 38, and in terms of raw production about half of what he was with Detroit in 2002-03.
Fedorov’s versatile and all — capable even of playing top-4-pairing defense in this league still — but you don’t resign a near-40 forward in the flickering embers of his career to multi-millions to play a bit part, right?
Right. You resign him partly because 2007-08 taught you the value of having quality depth up front. You resign him because you envision him as more than a veteran catalyst toward a Cup run.
And, you don’t place all your chips on ’08-09, either. More on that in a moment. But resigning Fedorov, in light of the outstanding contracts already piled high before General Manager George McPhee, means more pressure against the cap and likely the inability to resign one or two contributors from last season.
Fine by me.
The sentiment among virtually the entirety of HockeyWashington early this offseason is thus: get Feds resigned.
Perhaps this consensus is predicated on this perception: the fit between player and team at this moment in time is as perfect as perfect can be in the sport. It’s more than just the veteran hero-Russian mentoring the young Russian studs Ovechkin and Semin. Actually, ethnicity has nothing to do with it. In point of fact, Fedorov’s arrival in the Caps’ room this spring seized the attention of every member in it. They told us as much game after game in March and April. This was a three-time Cup winner standing up and holding court during tough times, night after night, and he had credibility with every Capital teammate. And he made a difference.
Then, as if to put an exclamation point on his stature, he went off to Halifax and Quebec City this month with the Russian national team, centered the top line between his two young Capitals’ countrymen, and helped forge the World Championship’s most potent line. Other NHL GMs certainly took notice of Fedorov’s performance in the NHL postseason and at the Worlds, but there’s one and only one GM who should have had his socks knocked off.
Who thinks that Fedorov’s work in Washington is done after 10 weeks’ time? Who thinks that another year or two of Feds would be anything but beneficial for Alexander Semin especially and the Caps more generally?
Did I suggest a new deal reaching out toward two years as a Cap? Multi-millions potentially at 40? Yep. The retaining of this extraordinary talent ought to be pursued with the notion of his playing a lead role on a Caps’ Cup-contending team, and in all likelihood we’re talking 2009-10 rather than next season for that.
Which makes the courtship of Feds this summer the most intriguing offseason personnel challenge for the Capitals since the summer of 1990, when they lost once-in-a-generation talent Scott Stevens. Sergei Fedorov at this stage of his career still carries a bit of magic in his game, but he also brings a bit of moxie to a room full of kids. More importantly, he sure appears to have melded with them. And at this stage of his career he’s paid Capitals’ management the greatest possible compliment: he wants to stick around what management has assembled.
Lose out on Feds and the Caps have the look of a 3-to-7 seed in the East next season. Bring him into the fold and send a message to the rest of the league: you want nothing to do with our power play, we have depth you crave, and the glory future is now.
Fedorov returned to the Caps could play a role we’ve never quite seen of a player in the twilight of his career: that of utility playmaker, on the first, second, or third lines; first- and or second-unit power play QB; first-unit penalty killer; taker of key draws in the Caps’ end at the end of tight games; and mentor. He likely also would play a role that isn’t defined by placement on ice or slotting in payroll. I don’t even know if there’s a name for it in hockey.
It just sure seems to need to happen.

This entry was posted in Alexander Ovechkin, Boyd Gordon, Brooks Laich, Dave Steckel, Front Office, Morning cup-a-joe, Sergei Fedorov, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to A Second Act in D.C. for Sergei Fedorov? Let’s Hope So

  1. Tim Ramsey says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.
    Tim Ramsey

  2. J.P. says:

    So the big question is, for your two-year deal, what’s the max you’d shell out for him?
    Remember also that at Fedorov’s age he can be signed to a contract with performance bonuses, but only on a one-year deal (if I’m not mistaken), which might make that a more attractive option, but the real question is still “how much?”

  3. Steven R says:

    Great commentary! OK GMGM, make it happen!

  4. J.P., perhaps the most tantalizing aspect to this week’s news is the sense that a signing here could be achieved from bargaining with Feds at a level south of his value on the open market. Or perhaps that’s an overly optimistic interpretation of Ovechkin’s statements on my part. A been-around-the-block vet like Feds no doubt knows the salary cap ballpark the Caps are approaching. Question is, are his agent and he willing to talk in a realm that keeps the Caps comfy in it? I think he could fetch upwards of $4 million per on the open market; I don’t think the Caps can afford to pay that.

  5. b.orr4 says:

    Backstrom-Nylander-Feds-Steckel/Gordon/Laich. Name me another team with that kind of quality center depth? Signing Feds says emphatically to the SE division, the rest of the league and, most importantly, your own players (including Huet) that the Caps intend to seriously contend for the Cup next season. OTOH, not signing him sends the reverse message. If you have to overpay a little, you do it. When was the last time we had a player of his caliber say he wants to play here? Oh right, when Ovechkin resigned in January. My how times are a-changin’ here in DC.

  6. zelda says:

    Well said! When Federov learned he was coming here, as a proud Russian, he could have made up his mind to play out the season honorably and head home. Instead, he had the strength of character and intelligence to remain open-minded going into this new situation. He found that he liked playing with these guys and rekindled his passion for the game. If he stays, he’s not doing it for the money. He’s having fun doing something he loves with a bunch of his countrymen. The intangibles on keeping him here are significant. He is a de-facto leader because of age and experience, and he seems willing to be a leader (which not all vets are willing to be.) I think he has had a positive influence on Semin and some of the other players. And, heck, he still has gas left in the tank.
    And, he’s got style — the pic OFB chose is my favorite thing about Feds — the after-game interview in the cap. The cap is now his signature look after only a couple of months. Love the cap!
    We’re Bederov with Federov.

  7. Todd says:

    Look, we all love Feds and owe him a lot for helping to solidify a team that was looking for leadership as it drove through the stretch run. I only wish it would have carried over to the playoffs in a series with the Flyers I initially thought the Capitals should have dominated. Now I question just how good the Flyers really were since they actually made it to the conference finals.
    My point is that leadership from guys like Feds can’t have a price tag slapped on it. But, if it comes down to money (which it always does), we need to look at beefing up the D and our goaltending first. Take care of those priorities first, but don’t let Feds get too far out on the end of your pole.

  8. Sombrero Guy says:

    I’d love to see him back. I think he could be productive for 2 years, the only question I have is what will that do to us in terms of keeping some of our younger guys. I would place signing Fedorov 3rd on our priority list behind Huet and Green. I would love to see Fedorov back, but if Green is trying to get Phaneuf money, will we be able to afford Fedorov? Still, like you said, there is the hope for the “home team discount” from Fedorov.

  9. SovSport says:

    To stay [in the NHL] or not to stay. That is the question.
    His brother is doing very well for Dynamo. Fedor also almost made the squad for this year’s Worlds, having been let go with a couple of days left before the start of the tournament.
    I guess I would be happy to see him wearing either sweater — Caps’ or Dynamo’s.

  10. Stupendous thoughts on the situation, Zelda, capped off (shameless pun) with your clever “Bederov with Fedorov.” Keep ’em coming.

  11. rajeev says:

    great post. agree with everything you’ve wrote. JP is correct about the cba only allowing for performance bonuses on a 1-year deal. i think that combined with his age make a 1-year deal much more viable and sensible than a 2-year. agree that given his playoff and world championship performances, he coulg get $4MM on the open market, and agree that the caps probably cannot afford to do that. i think a $3MM one year deal with some easily attainable bonuses makes the most sense, and it delays the cap hit of the bonus payments to the following season. we’ll see, on the one hand it doesnt make all that sense since the caps are so deep at center, but on the other hand, it was such a good fit and he’s still such a valuable player. we’ll see, but if he can play at a half the level he was at during the world championships, he’ll be an extremely useful player for the caps next year.
    interesting note about him and his bro, fedor. sergei wanted to play with him at the worlds, but actually sergei ended up taking fedor’s roster spot and was the reason fedor didnt make the team. this was after fedor was probably the best national team player in the tournaments during the season. that’s gotta hurt a bit.

  12. J.P. says:

    I don’t think Fedorov could command that much ($4m) on the open market, but I could be wrong.
    Take a look at Shanahan’s contract this past season. It was (rounding) a $2.5m base with $2.5m in incentives. Mark Recchi was signed at $1.75m with $250k in incentives. Both of those contracts were signed coming off 20+ goal/60+ point seasons.
    Fedorov hasn’t hit 20 goals or 60 points since before the lockout. Granted, Ken Hitchcock probably had more to do with that than Sergei’s skill level, and with the Caps his numbers would pro-rate to 9 goals and 50 helpers, but I still see his market value topping out south of $4m.
    All of this is to say that I think a one-year deal with incentives would be best for the team. Could Feds be a $4m player in 2008-09? Maybe. But (and I would love to see him back, don’t get me wrong) anything more than a one year deal with a $2m base and $1m in performance bonuses is going to start to get real risky, real fast.

  13. Sombrero Guy says:

    I agree with JP in as far as the salary terms go. 2 Million salary with incentives up to 1 million sounds about as high as I think we should go. I can’t see Fedorov being offered more than 3m per, and that would be from a desperate team, something i don’t think Sergei is looking for at this stage of his career.
    Also just an FYI that bonuses count against the cap. Teams are allowed to exceed the cap by up to 7.5% to pay all met bonuses, but must be under the cap the following season by the same amount they exceeded it the season before.

  14. J.P. says:

    Also worth noting (and I really don’t mean to be raining on any parades) – since the lockout, Fedorov has missed time with injuries to his groin (13 games in 2005), back (2 games in 2006), shoulder (6 games in 2006), elbow (3 games in 2007), hip (1 game in 2008) and head (13 games in 2008).
    It’s really important that the team keep the guaranteed portion of any deal as low as possible (and yes, that’s GMGM’s job on all contracts, but you know what I mean).

  15. Sombrero Guy says:

    Also, where can one buy that awesome knit hat Feds always wears?

  16. Fedorov, in BB’s system — but of course this is assuming he’s able to earn 15-plus minutes a night somewhere in the top 6 — I think could easily hit a numbers realm justifying a good deal more than $2.5 million in today’s league. But my theory on these negotiations is also premised on his value to the team’s two young Russians particularly, and Semin most particularly. We sure did seem to see a different Alexander Semin after Feds arrived here, no?, and up at the Worlds, on his line. Question is, if in fact he does have some manner of maturing influence on Semin, what is that worth to you?
    The other issue if you lowball him like I think a $2 million offer would, it seems to me, is that you play him right into the wallet of Mr. Medvedev or anybody else affiliated with the Extra Super Russian Super League, beginning this autunm. He’s a national hero at home, understandably, and for next season, coming off a gold at the Worlds, he’d be paid like one, I wager.

  17. J.P. says:

    I think (hope?) that Fedorov’s influence on Semin was transformational and not something that necessarily requires daily maintenance.
    And can he find a spot on the top two lines? We know he’s not a better offensive option than either of the Swedes, the top two LW spots are locked up, and you’d hope that some combo of Fehr, Clark and Kozlov could fill the RW spots (my personal preference is to have Clark on the 3rd line). In fact, to keep 91’s minutes manageable and to maximize his special teams usage, I’d think the 3rd line center spot (with fill-in duties on the top two lines) would be ideal.
    While a $2m deal might be seen as lowballing him (my offer was $2m plus $1m in bonus cash), how much guaranteed money are you willing to throw at a guy who has openly discussed retirement as an option?
    C’mon, PNB – I’m still waiting for the max (dollars – we know you’d go two years) you’d be happy with the team signing him for. 😉

  18. SovSport says:

    $2m – 13% > $2m – 40%

  19. margaret says:

    we need him at least another year- he’s had a great impact on semin especially, who could totally be one of the top players if he has the right people around him. he lead team Russia with pts and goals!
    Feds also had a great influence on ovie and b?ɬ§ckstr?ɬ?m -WE NEED MORE FEDS!

  20. seb says:

    does our coach want him back?

  21. FrankM73 says:

    great article… good points across the board… I think 2.5 per season for 2 years might be the most that the Caps can pay if they try and keep everyone. Having said that, I think Jurcina, Fleischmann, Eminger or Gordon will be moved at the draft with a pick to move up. Sadly, I think it would be a mistake to move any of these but the #’s don’t add up… not enough roster spots!

  22. Alex says:

    If Green wants Phaneuf money, pack him up and send him to Calgary.
    After Jagr and Lang fiascos, we can’t afford any more prima donnas. We need more down to earth guys who don’t have their heads in the clouds and care about the team.
    Give Green 5.5 million, not a dime more. Huet’s a bigger priority than him. Green still has a long way to go before becoming a complete defenseman and should acknowledge that. Fedorov for 2 years/7-8 million would be an amazingly productive deal.

  23. Schultz for Norris says:

    Great post. Feds can maybe one of a handful of current players who can get to Semin. The guy is so talented and yet so completely disinterested half the time. Fed can turn his raw talent into professionalism. That’s worth more money than we have available under the cap. FWIW, I would have Feds center Semin on line 2 a bunch. Nyls or the other part of Feds can do the third line. Steckel and Gordo will have to duel for the 4th line gig or pack up.

  24. Sombrero Guy says:

    Taking last year’s final roster down to 23 people, leaving off Pothier (LTI) Cooke and Kolzig, i show the Caps as having a salary cap figure of $38,978,934 with Fedorov, Green, Huet, Eminger, Morrison, Fehr, Laich, Gordon left to sign. Assuming the rumored 56 million cap is somewhat accurate, that leaves us in the neighborhood of $17 million to sign 8 guys. If Huet and Green get $5 million a piece, that leaves 7 million to sign the remaining 6 guys.

  25. JR says:

    1) Try asking Federov what he wants rather than lowball him. He might be more reasonable than you think, didn’t he just bank like $50M?
    2) Green isn’t getting $5 million. Or $4 million. 3 years and 9-10 mil.
    3) Final word on Feds – 2 years and 5 million is the most I’d offer. He’s a luxury.
    3) The ‘zephyr’ hats Feds wears are at NHL shop. I got one and it’s pretty sweet.

  26. Sombrero Guy says:

    JR- hope you’re right. A lot of people seem to think that Green being named a sporting news all star (top 2 d-man as named by the players) and his being named to the first team for the Worlds means his asking price went up. I HOPE we can get him for 3.5 million or so. I think thats about what he is worth right now as he has much room for improvement on the D-side but who knows what his agents will make him think…

  27. Hockey Amor says:

    Bederov with Fedorov! LOL!
    I say bring him back, remember than Larionov was exceptional even when older.
    Spares: Fleischman, Fehr, Laing, no need for Cooke

  28. Dawson says:

    Now I Get It, Finally Saw It

  29. jaiseClessWaw says:

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