$38 million gamble paying off
Fedorov working wonders for Detroit in Stanley Cup finals
Posted: Sunday June 14, 1998 06:14 PM
What a country: Fedorov scored the game-winning goal at 4:51 left in the third period in Game 3 (AP)|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The $38 million gamble the Detroit Red Wings took in
matching Carolina's offer sheet to Sergei Fedorov is
on the brink of paying off in a second straight Stanley Cup.
And make no mistake, Fedorov is earning every penny of it.
"I think he wants to prove something," Red Wings associate coach Brian
Lewis said Sunday, a little more than 13 hours after Fedorov scored late in
the third period to give Detroit a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals and a
3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals.
Detroit can become the first team to win consecutive Cups since
Pittsburgh in 1991-92 by beating Washington Tuesday night.
While Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman (6
goals, 18 assists) appears to be the favorite to win the Conn Symthe Trophy
as the playoff MVP, Lewis doubts whether Detroit would be close to
repeating without Fedorov.
The blond-haired center who has drawn more attention for his contract and
his relationship with tennis star Anna Kournikova has had a spectacular
playoff, on both ends of the ice. He leads the NHL with a career-high 10
playoff goals, and he has 18 points. Not only is he scoring, he is killing
penalties, backchecking on offense and working the power play.
He's also one of the Red Wings' most intelligent players on the ice.
"You can't play strong defensively unless you have a good mind for the
game," Lewis said. "Offensively, you can get away with talent, but
defensively you can't. I think he is such a blend, the complete player in
that he can do it on both sides of the puck.
"Time and again that can either save a game or win a game. That's a rare
commodity in players."
And that's why the Red Wings gambled in late February, matching the
six-year, $38 million free-agent contract that the Hurricanes offered
Fedorov. It included a $14 million signing bonus and a second $12 million
accelerated bonus that would pay off July 1 if the team made the finals.
That wasn't a problem for Carolina. The Hurricanes didn't expect to go
For the Red Wings, it was a potential roadblock to matching the offer.
Detroit owner Mike Ilitch decided to match, feeling that he would not get
fair market value by letting Fedorov walk for five first-round draft
So after a 59-game holdout, Fedorov returned to the Red Wings and gave
them one more weapon in the quest for a Stanley Cup.
His game-winning goal with 4:51 to play Saturday night was worth a big
part of his contact. He took a pass from Doug Brown off the
side boards in center ice, swept down the right wing, cut across the
faceoff circle to gain an advantage on defenseman Calle Johansson,
then beat Olaf
Kolzig with a shot over his glove.
"Sergei is a game-breaker and that's exactly what he did for us last
night," said center Kris Draper, who had
the game-winner in overtime in Game 2.
"He turned nothing into a game-winning goal and that's what great players
do. We were a confident team all year, then as soon as we got Sergei, we
realized we had an opportunity to make a very good run at the Stanley Cup,
and that's exactly what he brings us."
Fedorov has downplayed his contract and the off-the-ice issues all
season. His personal accomplishments don't seem to interest him as much as
another Cup and the city he now considers home.
"I love Detroit," Fedorov said. "It's been home to me. I defect here. I
put my life on the line once. Why would I want to go somewhere else? I have
done quite a few things for this team and this team has done quite a few
things for me that will never be forgotten."
A second Cup will make the relationship even stronger, although
Washington still believes it can come back and win the final four games, a
feat accomplished only by Toronto in 1942. The Caps have lost each of the
first three games by one goal.
"There's very little between winning and losing," said veteran Brian Bellows, who
scored for Washington Saturday night. "We have to try to get some respect,
win one game, then parlay that [into another win in Detroit]. We need to
forecheck more. We need more confidence."
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.