Joe Reekie

Date of Last Contract:October 7, 1999

Signed Through: 2001-2002 Season



Caps give Reekie three-year contract

By Dave Fay
The Washington Times
Friday, October 8, 1999

If Joe Reekie were paid on the basis of offense, he would owe the Washington Capitals a bunch of money, especially after going scoreless during the 1998-99 season.

In a day when it seems only offense counts, Reekie is a rarity. He is paid strictly to prevent pucks from going into his net, and nobody really cares if he ever wanders across the red line again.

Reekie, 35, was rewarded yesterday for being a stable relic -- a stay-at-home defenseman who realizes that his top priority is to protect his goaltender. He and the Caps reached an agreement on a three-year deal that will pay him $1.4 million this season and $1.5 million each of the next two years. He would have made $1.02 million this season under his previous deal.

"Whereas it seems the premium is to pay people who just score goals, it's just as important not to get scored against,'' coach Ron Wilson said. ``Joe is one of the more reliable defensemen in the NHL. He just doesn't make mistakes defensively.''

And even if he does on occasion, that's when he stands out, when fans remember who he is.

"The way I see it, if I go into a game and nobody notices me, then I've done my job,'' said Reekie, struggling to find the right words. ``If people notice me, it's going to be because of a glaring mistake I've made trying to defend.''

Getting to his 15th NHL season hasn't come easily for Reekie. The native of Victoria, British Columbia, wasn't taken until the seventh round of the 1983 draft by Hartford, a team he never played for. He went back into the draft two seasons later and was taken by Buffalo, but only five spots higher than before.

He spent the next seven seasons bouncing between the Sabres and their farm teams, or the New York Islanders and their affiliates. He was taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1992 expansion draft and hasn't been back to the minors since. He was obtained by the Caps in March 1994 when Washington needed help for a playoff run.

"There's no question I like it here, I like the organization, I like the area,'' he said. ``With new ownership everybody sees what's going to happen and I want to be a part of it.''

The defenseman has a streak going -- 11 straight seasons with a plus defensive rating, a career total of plus-122. His last minus season was 1987-88, a minus-3.

"He just has a knack, like right now,'' Wilson said. ``We've played one game and he's plus-2 and he was on the ice every time [Florida superstar] Pavel Bure was out. It's not like we're hiding him. He doesn't look very smooth on the ice and I think Joe would admit that. But he's very efficient, he uses his stick as well as any defenseman in the league.''

Said another Washington official: ``When he's on the ice we don't get scored on, it's as simple as that. Sometimes it's easy to overlook a Reekie until you start to think where we'd be if it wasn't for his contribution.''

For Washington management, it was only the start of what will probably be a long season of negotiating. Ten players on the current team are scheduled to become restricted free agents at the end of the season while an 11th, defenseman Calle Johansson, will be an unrestricted free agent unless the Caps sign him before July 1, 2000.