Date of Last Contract: August 20, 2001
Signed Through: 2004-2005 Season
Kolzig, Capitals Agree on Extension
5-Year Deal Doubles Star Goalie's Salary
By Jason LaCanfora
The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 21, 2001; Page D01
The Washington Capitals signed star goalie Olaf Kolzig to a four-year contract extension yesterday, a move intended to secure his services for the rest of his career.
Kolzig, 31, Washington's statistical leader in virtually every goaltending category, was set to make $3 million this season in the final year of a four-year, $12 million contract. Now Kolzig will earn $6 million this season and next, $6.25 million in 2003-04 and 2004-05, and $6.5 million in the final season of the five-year, $31 million deal. Kolzig would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer had he not signed, although Kolzig said he had no intentions of playing elsewhere.
"I really didn't try to hide that I love playing in Washington," Kolzig said before the start of the inaugural Olie Kolzig Children's Hospital Golf and Tennis Classic tournament at the Springfield Golf and Country Club. "This organization has treated me so good and gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL. It probably took me a little longer to develop than everybody expected, but because of their patience I eventually became a pretty good goalie.
"I'm happy to remain a Capital, hopefully for the rest of my career. Washington is one of the more underrated cities in the league. We've got a great building [MCI Center], a great city. . . . Everything is first-class with this organization. I didn't have any thoughts about looking anywhere else to play."
Kolzig was drafted 19th overall in 1989 but did not play exclusively in the NHL until the 1996-97 season. Since then, Kolzig has established himself as one of the most dominant performers at that position, using his exceptional size (6 feet 3, 231 pounds) and strength to join a legion of larger and more athletic goalies. He led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, was awarded the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender after the 1999-2000 season and has appeared in two all-star games.
With a 151-131-40 career record, Kolzig has played in, and won, more games than any goaltender in franchise history. His 21 shutouts are seven more than any previous Capitals goaltender, he is the club's all-time leader in save percentage (.908) and is second in career goals against average (2.49) to Jim Carey, who posted a 2.37 GAA from 1995 to '97. Kolzig, who was honored by the NHL this summer for his charity work, also holds the team's single-season record for appearances (73), wins (41) and save percentage (.917), stabilizing a position that had long been a problem for the organization, especially in the postseason.
"We're thrilled about this deal," General Manager George McPhee said. "If you want to have success in this league you had better have good goaltending. We feel Olie is among the top five players at his position. There are goalies like Patrick Roy and [Dominik] Hasek that have really distinguished themselves, and Olie is in the next cluster of goalies and hopefully he'll distinguish himself further in the next four or five years.
"He's already carried this team to the Stanley Cup finals, he's already won the Vezina, and in my opinion, he should have won two Vezina Trophies in the last four years. He's a leader for our club, he's very competitive, and, that being said, he's very well liked and respected in the locker room and certainly on the ice, as well. He's everything we would want in a goaltender."
This contract makes Kolzig the second-highest paid player on the club, behind right wing Jaromir Jagr, who was acquired from Pittsburgh this summer. The Capitals did not object to making Kolzig the league's fourth-highest paid goaltender behind Hasek ($9 million), Roy ($8.5 million) and Toronto's Curtis Joseph ($6.45 million) given his strong play and the fast-evolving salary structure for goaltenders.
Kolzig's deal continued a trend of proactive contract negotiations set by second-year owner Ted Leonsis. Since Leonsis has taken over, the team has worked to re-sign Peter Bondra, Calle Johansson, Steve Konowalchuk and Joe Reekie before they became eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Defenseman Brendan Witt is now the Capitals' only young core player entering the final year of his contract. A league source said the Capitals have completed a contract extension with Witt, but the defenseman said he has held only two discussions about a new contract with more to come shortly.
"Brendan is an important part of our club," McPhee said. "We'll sit down at some point and see if there's something that makes sense for both of us."
Capitals Notes: The Capitals remain in the early stages of negotiations with center Jeff Halpern, their only unsigned restricted free agent. The sides are expected to speak again this week.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company