Jaroslav Svejkovsky

Date of Last Contract: September 9, 1999

Signed Through: 2001-02 Season



Svejkovsky, Caps agree to 3-year deal

By Dave Fay
Friday, Sept. 10, 1999; Page B5

That Yogi Svejkovsky had the desire to play was never in question; reporting for the start of the Washington Capitals training camp about two months early was a pretty clear indication. But there were questions: Was he healthy, and would he agree to a new contract?

The answers to both appear to be yes. The Caps yesterday cut in half the number of their holdouts when Svejkovsky and the club agreed on a three-year deal paying the wing $550,000, $600,000 and $650,000 as long as he stays in the NHL. The first two years of the contract are two-way, meaning far less money if he is demoted.

Still holding out is another 23-year-old wing, Richard Zednik, currently stranded in Slovakia because he does not have the necessary documentation to re-enter the country. He has rejected an offer slightly higher than Svejkovsky's and will miss at least a week of camp even if he signs a contract today.

Svejkovsky, Zednik and center Jan Bulis make up what Caps fans have been hoping would be an offensively explosive mix, a youthful wave to follow the veterans who currently keep the team headed in the right direction. But so far there has been mostly disappointment. The three careers have been pockmarked by a long succession of injuries, some of which did not seem serious at the time but lasted for months.

Last season, for instance, Svejkovsky missed 57 games with an ankle injury then a concussion. Bulis missed 28 games with an ankle injury and was farmed out to get more playing time (and ended up with a concussion). Zednik missed 29 games with injuries and was suspended for another four. The combined offense for the trio, 54 points, matched that of Adam Oates, and he was out 23 games with a groin injury.

This is a trio that is overdue.

"No, no," said Svejkovsky, a native of the Czech Republic who still has a little trouble with the language but agreed with the assessment. ``The time [to produce] was last year. I feel like we missed a year altogether. It was really bad; nobody had good season. The three of us together, we don't play many games, and that is not good. First thing is, we got to play hard every single game, but hopefully we're in good enough shape so that hopefully nothing bad will happen to us. No bad breaks, you know?''

Fans are not the only ones waiting for some indication of a breakthrough. Washington management is perhaps more anxious than Svejkovsky.

"It's time to grow up and be professionals,'' said coach Ron Wilson, quickly acknowledging that the three have been injured. But ``we've changed our program to help them not be injured. If you have a little boo-boo, we expect you to play.''

"Their orientation process is over,'' general manager George McPhee said. "They've been in the league and around the team long enough to adjust to all the things young players have to adjust to. Now this season, with the increased opportunity and ice time they'll get, it's time for them to focus solely on hockey with no impediments, no excuses. Show us what you can do.''

In the two years since the McPhee-Wilson regime has been here, Svejkovsky only has played a total of 42 games, half a season. That is enough to recognize he is a player with talent but perhaps not enough time to assess the level of the talent properly.

"Yogi has been a prolific scorer wherever he's been,'' McPhee said. "He's a real focused player, real good instincts around the net, but he's been held back by funky injuries. He's average size [6-foot-1, 195], but his focus and instincts make the difference. He has a plan and the confidence to make it work."

Svejkovsky said the first part of his comeback plan is to play one good game, then a second and keep going until he hits 82. It's a start.