Date of Last Contract:June 21, 1999
Signed Through: 2000-2001 Season
Nelson's back with the Caps
By Mike Lowe, Staff Writer
Copyright 1999 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
Tuesday, June 22, 1999
Jeff Nelson left the Washington Capitals two years ago, disgruntled with his ever-decreasing prospects of getting a regular shift in the NHL.
He returned to the organization Monday as a central figure in its rebuilding plans.
The Capitals acquired the rights to Nelson in a trade with the Nashville Predators for future considerations and promptly signed him to a two-year contract. While Nelson could make the Capitals, it is possible that he will end up playing part of the season with the Portland Pirates.
And that would be fine with him.
"First and foremost, my goal is to make the NHL," said Nelson, who, along with his wife, Jessica, has a home in Raymond. "I want to get back to that level and I want to play there.
He is the only Pirate to score more than 100 points, with 107 in the 1993-94 Calder Cup championship season. His 73 assists that season are also a team-high.
He had only 105 points over the last two seasons with Milwaukee of the IHL, but Nelson could provide the Pirates with a first-line center.
"Throughout my career, that's what's been expected of me," said Nelson. "When I've signed with anyone, it's been to provide offense. "
Kent Hulst, captain of the Pirates, said Nelson's presence would "give us a better chance of winning. He knows what it means to play for the Pirates."
But the Capitals are hoping that Nelson sticks in Washington. After failing to make the playoffs last season, they are revamping their lineup with younger, hungrier players.
"We are certainly in a transition period," said Shawn Simpson, Washington's director of hockey operations. "And there are going to be some great opportunities for the players in our organization.
"Jeff's got some good ability and some great experience. He will get a great opportunity to make the team."
Nelson has played seven professional seasons, scoring 173 goals and 321 assists for 494 points in 511 games.
He has played 52 games in the NHL, with three goals and eight assists.
He originally was drafted by Washington with their fourth pick in the 1991 draft. After four seasons in the organization, he left for Grand Rapids of the IHL.
"At that point in my career, I didn't feel I was making any steps forward," said Nelson. "And sometimes you have to take a step back to get that chance."
That chance came with Nashville, coached by former Pirates coach Barry Trotz.
Nelson played in the expansion Predators' first nine games -- "opening night was an overwhelming experience, definitely one of the highest moments in my career" -- scoring two goals and an assist before going to Milwaukee.
His return to Washington, he said, "shows there are no hard feelings. I just see this as a new start."
Simpson, who said the Caps aren't done signing players yet, called Nelson "one of my favorite people that we had. He's a great professional and it's too bad we had to part ways the way we did."
Trotz said Monday that the Predators, deep at center, tried to put Nelson in a situation where he had a chance at the NHL.
"Jeff's a person and a player we knew closely and respected," said Trotz. "We owed it to him to do it."
And Nelson is glad they did.
"This is a win-win thing for me," he said. "I'll get a chance to play in the NHL again. If I can't, it'll be nice to play somewhere you have a place of your own.""First and foremost, my goal is to make the NHL."