Backstrom signs three-year, entry-level contract

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nicklas Backstrom's new No. 19 Washington Capitals jersey was hanging in the locker room at the team's
practice facility Monday after he signed his three-year, entry
level contract.

Above the jersey was a nameplate, reading "N. BACKSTROM" and
decorated with club and NHL logos. All of the other lockers were
empty: no jerseys, no nameplates. Expect more to come, though.

The 19-year-old center, the fourth overall pick in the 2006
draft, represents the first major addition of what the team
promises will be a busy offseason.

"We've got lots of work to do. We have a real good young core.
We have some good veterans. But we need to add some more to really
make the team better than it is," general manager George McPhee
said. "And we'll be aggressive this summer."

The Capitals finished with 70 points and ranked 27th in the
30-team NHL each of the past two seasons, and owner Ted Leonsis has
vowed to improve.

Leonsis mentioned bringing aboard another center, adding
defensemen and perhaps adding a wing, promising "a significant
amount of change -- and hopefully upgrade."

That sounds good to longtime Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig, who
has spent his 15 NHL seasons with Washington.

"I would like them obviously to bring in some veteran talent,"
said the 37-year-old Kolzig, who added he'd like to play three more
seasons. "We need some depth in the organization, there's no

Backstrom, listed at 6 feet and 183 pounds, gives Washington a
young forward to possibly pair with its two Russian wings, 2005-06
rookie of the year Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

"This is another part of our rebuilding plan," Leonsis said.
"He is another part of the foundation of the new core of the
Washington Capitals."

After a year of extra seasoning in his native Sweden, Backstrom
considers himself ready for the NHL. So do the Capitals.

Instead of joining Washington right away after being drafted, he
opted to play a third season for his Swedish club, Brynas.
Backstrom recorded his best statistics in 2006-07, with 12 goals
and 28 assists in 45 games.

Does he have targets for the types of numbers he hopes to
produce in the NHL?

"We'll see what happens," Backstrom said, smiling.

He said he thinks the more physical style of play here will
require the biggest adjustment. And he has no regrets about waiting
to sign with the Capitals.

"I'm a better player, and I grew also as a person, too,"
Backstrom said.

Asked what his best attributes are, the teenager cited "good
hockey sense" and "very good hands."

McPhee was effusive in his praise.

"He's a very smart player, very poised, very patient with the
puck," McPhee said. "He's better defensively than a lot of young
players are. He's good on faceoffs. And he looks out for things in
his own end. His positioning is really good. Like a lot of young
players, he has to work on strength and quickness and so on to
adjust to the NHL pace. But he's a pretty good hockey player."

Backstrom arrived in town Saturday, and it's been a bit of a
whirlwind. He saw some of the sights, including the White House,
threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Washington Nationals
game, and attended a Washington Mystics game, too.

He was accompanied by his older brother, Kristoffer, who plays
hockey for a Swedish second-division team, and their parents.
Backstrom's father, Anders, played pro hockey in Sweden and was
drafted in the 10th round by the New York Rangers in 1980.

Anders Backstrom never made it over to the NHL. His son has.