Date of Last Contract: August 3, 2000
Signed Through: 2002-2003 Season
Caps sign teen-ager from Czech league
By Dave Fay
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Friday, August 4, 2000; Page B7
The Washington Capitals yesterday gained one of the players they hope will be a building block for the future.
Washington signed center-left wing Michal Sivek, 19, to a three-year contract after the native of Nachod, Czech Republic, completed his first season of hockey in North America, playing for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in the Western Hockey League.
Left unsaid in the announcement was what perhaps was behind the signing at this time. It is club policy under general manager George McPhee not to sign draft picks until they appear ready to play in the NHL or have finished amateur careers so the Caps don't turn inexperienced young men loose in the junior hockey ranks with a ton of money and perhaps the wrong guidance.
Playing left wing, a position the Caps would love to upgrade, Sivek scored 23 goals and had 60 points in 53 games for Prince Albert last season.
"The organization has drafted very well in the last two years, and Michal is evidence of that,'' McPhee said. ``He is big [6-foot-4, 209 pounds] and is a powerful skater. He will be a solid NHL player. The only question is when, and we'll know the answer to that in training camp."
If Sivek doesn't make the Caps coming out of camp this fall, there is a spot waiting for him in his native country. He has a deal to play with Sparta in Prague in the Czech elite league, with the Caps retaining his rights. That is the same league that produced the players who are the reigning Olympic and world champions, counting among its alumni Jaromir Jagr, the Pittsburgh Penguins' superstar.
A scout familiar with WHL hockey said last night Sivek's development probably would be put on the fast track by returning to his homeland, where more emphasis is put on skill and less on physical contact.
"It appears he accomplished what was intended when the Caps sent him out here,'' said the scout, who asked not to be identified. ``If the goal was to familiarize him with North American hockey, that was accomplished, and nothing was to be gained by putting him through another season of 15-hour bus rides. The season is shorter in Europe, but he'll get to work on skill development on a daily basis."
Sivek was the first player taken in the second round of the 1999 draft. He had been projected to go late in the first round but slipped when some surprise selections were made ahead of him. He played for Czech national teams for three seasons and developed the reputation of being an "extremely hard worker who pushes himself every shift,'' according to the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau.
Washington has high hopes the player it selected ahead of Sivek, center Kris Beech, also will compete for a spot on the NHL roster this fall. Beech had 32 goals and 86 points in 66 games for Calgary in the WHL but is not under contract. The timing of Sivek's contract was advanced so his status would be known to teams in the Czech league.
Do Sivek and Beech, only one season removed from the draft, have a chance of making it this fall?
"Yes," McPhee said. ``If a player is good enough, we'll make room for him, just as we did last season for Jeff Halpern. I told the kids at the end of [summer] camp to come in and compete hard for a job. I promised them if they were good enough, any of them, we'd make room for them. After what Halpern did last season, it would be rather dumb on our part not to."