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Sometimes signing a free agent for a team would be the logical move, but it doesn’t seem to work. In many cases, the player is injured and is unable to return to his former level. This is often more obvious to an older player. There is a case of Michael Nylander being signed by the Washington Capitals before the 2007–08 season.
Times were tough in DC. The Capitals were finishing last for the second time in a row in the Southeast Division after the 2004–05 NHL lockout. They also finished last in that division in the year before the lockout.
Before the 2003–04 season, the team was expected to make the playoffs. However, after the team’s poor start in October, general manager George McPhee thought it was time to rebuild, noting that the team’s most important forward was over 30 years old. It included Peter Bondra, Jaromir Jagger, Robert Lang, Steve Konovalchuk and, ironically, Michael Nylander himself.
As a result, seasoned assets were traded for draft picks and younger prospects. The Caps won the draft lottery for 2004 and were able to select Alex Ovechkin.
The Capitals hoped that the 2007–08 season would be better than in recent times, with their prospects maturing. But with such a young team, the Capitals felt they needed to sign some experienced players to provide leadership and mentor that young corps. To that end, he carried forward Viktor Kozlov, Michael Nylander and defenseman, Tom Poti.
Nylander signing response
The Capitals signed Nylander to a four-year deal for a total of $19.5 million. While Nylander would turn 35 at the start of that season, he was coming off two excellent seasons with the New York Rangers, career highs in both goals (26) and assists (57) for the Rangers during the 2006–07 season. was posting.
Nylander was the first true center to join the team during the Alex Ovechkin era, as in earlier years, his distinctive center was Danius Zubras who was considered more dominant as a right winger.
This will be Nylander’s second tour of duty with Caps. He played with the Caps from 2002–03 to 2003–04 before being traded to the trade deadline in 2004. Initially, he was going to sign a contract with the Edmonton Oilers, but changed his mind and decided to return to the Caps instead, as he felt Washington was a better place for the family.
Signing Nylander was praised by the media, talking about how the Caps had upgraded their offensive prowess by acquiring him. His playing skills were estimated to complement the offensive skills of star wingers, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
Neither of them had ever been with a true playmaking center during their early years in the NHL. As a bonus, the Nylander a . will work as Patron for rookie Niklas Backstrom who would make his NHL debut that season. As a fellow Swede, Nylander would help Backstrom adjust to the North American lifestyle and even kept Backstrom for some time. where is it Backstrom begins a close relationship with Nylander’s son William (Maple Leafs).,
Initially, Backstrom stayed with the Nylander family until he found his place. But he was still a frequent dinner guest at their home, playing ping-pong with Nylander’s children, including his 11-year-old son, William, who later became an NHL player himself.
The Capitals’ head coach, Glenn Hanlon, spoke about him at the start of the season.
“I have a rule, every time you skate, try as hard as you can. That’s what we know about Michael. We’ve had the benefit of having him here before, so we know exactly that. How’s that and I haven’t met anyone who’s more intense during practice or more ready to play a game.”
The initial plan for that season was for Viktor Kozlov to focus on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Nylander with Semin on the second line. Backstrom would start as a left winger on the second line, with Naylander and Semin as he adjusted to the North American ice.
Nylander got off to a good start with the Capitals while on the second line. However, on December 1, he injured his shoulder during faceoff in a game against the Florida Panthers and missed the next four games. His shoulder did not improve and by mid-January, He needed rotator cuff surgery and was out for the rest of the season.
At the time he was postponed for the season, he had 11 goals and a team-high 26 assists in 40 games. His 37 points were second only to Alex Ovechkin, who had 33 goals and 21 assists at the time.
With Nylander for the year, the Capitals traded in for Sergei Fedorov to fill the void in the center. While he only intended to be hired for the remainder of 2007–08, he was such a big hit to the team that he returned for the 2008–09 season.
When Nylander returned for the 2008–09 season, he was now third on the depth chart for centers behind Niklas Backström, who had become top center by the end of 2007–08, and Sergei Fedorov. Nylander was increasingly considered a liability, with a cap hit of $4.875 million. Statistically-wise, Nylander played 72 games, recording 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists).
But by the end of the season, he was often a healthy scratch and played only three games during the playoffs. It was clear that he no longer fit the Washington Capitals’ plans and that his hat hit could be better used to upgrade needed areas such as defence.
last two years
Nylander did not play for the Capitals at all during the final two years of his contract. During 2009–10, he was loaned to the Grand Rapids Griffins, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings AHL, in late October 2009. He agreed to play there to get the game action and not take time off from the possibilities at Hershey. Later that season, he was loaned to Jokerit Helsinki in the SM-Liga in Finland.
Just before the start of the 2010–11 season, he was loaned out. Florida Panthers AHL Affiliate, Rochester American, While playing with Rochester in October, he was seriously injured and required spinal fusion surgery which ended his season.
Nylander’s contract expired at the end of the 2010–11 season. He never played in the NHL again, but played hockey in Europe in leagues in both Switzerland and Sweden, before retiring as a player in 2015.
With today’s collective bargaining agreement, teams can no longer loan players to other teams to remove their caps from the roster as they return before the 2012–13 season.
The Capitals’ signing for Michael Nylander made sense at the time as an experienced, playmaking center was needed. But then he was injured and was replaced by another player – Sergei Fedorov. Also, meanwhile Niklas Backstrom emerged as a true number one center. The potential for injury reduced their effectiveness and was seen as an expense, along with a high salary cap hit.
Meanwhile, Michael’s son, William, became an NHL player in his own right with the Toronto Maple Leafs. She and Niklas Backstrom fondly remember the days Backstrom lived with his family when they later played together at the IIHF World Championships.
by Diane Doyle
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