Date of Last Contract:July 6, 2000
Signed Through: 2002-2003 Season
Cote rejoins Caps, signs three-year pact
By Dave Fay
The Washington Times
Friday, July 7, 2000; Page B1
Just before the trading deadline two springs ago, the Washington Capitals were looking for a larger-caliber cannon to shoot from the point on power plays during the playoffs, and Sylvain Cote was sacrificed to make the deal work.
The Caps yesterday corrected that mistake by reacquiring the popular defenseman, signing the unrestricted free agent to a three-year contract, potentially worth $4.4 million plus incentives.
The signing of a veteran defenseman is critical for several reasons, the primary one being that the team faces a possible labor shortage when the season starts. Veteran defensemen Ken Klee, Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt are all restricted free agents, and the possibility of multiple holdouts is distinct. Cote, 34, plugs what might be a huge hole with an experienced player.
"He can be a very versatile defenseman for us,'' said general manager George McPhee. ``With his experience he can play in a lot of different situations for us, possibly taking the lead during varying stages of a game, and he's fine at that.''
It was McPhee who took a calculated risk 2.5 years ago, sending Cote to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jeff Brown, a risk defensively but the owner of a lethal shot from the point. Washington was preparing for what turned out to be an advance to the Stanley Cup finals, and the addition of Brown made perfect sense.
However, Brown sustained a concussion nine games after his arrival and missed the rest of the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs. He appeared in the first two games of the finals against Detroit, earning two assists in Game 2, but a new round of headaches forced him out of the lineup. He never returned and eventually was forced to retire.
Cote, meanwhile, played parts of three seasons for Toronto before being traded twice last season, to Chicago and Dallas, helping the Stars to the finals. Cote was on the ice when New Jersey's Jason Arnott scored the series-winning goal in the second overtime of Game 6 and caught some of the flak for the Devil having an open shot. But Cote had turned to try to cover open territory when Mike Modano, the Dallas captain, left the zone early.
Besides being a valuable addition as a depth player, Cote brings some badly needed help for the struggling power play. In 76 games last season, Cote had eight goals and 35 points; five of those goals and more than half the points were on the power play. By contrast, Washington defenseman Dmitri Mironov, brought in specifically to help in that area, had three goals and 17 points total during the past two seasons on the power play.
The defenseman was first acquired by Washington just before the 1991 season for a draft pick that turned out to be Andrei Nikolishin, now a Cap. He played for the Caps for the next seven seasons until he was traded. He was one of three defenseman from the same team to each score more than 20 goals in the same season, 1992-93 -- Kevin Hatcher (34), Al Iafrate (25) and Cote (21). Their record still stands.
"I really enjoyed the years I spent in Washington and have always returned each summer, my offseason home,'' Cote said yesterday. ``The Caps have a good team for the future. I had other opportunities, but I wanted to play in Washington."
That latter desire might be to be reunited with the 42-foot fishing craft he purchased while he was a Cap the first time. He has kept it moored in the area for his summer returns.