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In the 43-year history of the Capitals, just three players have worn No. 92 on the back of their sweaters. While budding superstar Evgeny Kuznetsov is the most recent and current owner of the number, longtime NHLer Michael Nylander held the distinction of being the last player to wear No. 92 prior to Kuznetsov’s arrival in 2014. In this piece, NoVa Caps looks back at the Capitals career of the Last No. 92.Initially acquired by the Caps in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on November 1, 2002, Nylander played 71 games in the 2002-03 season, recording 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists). After missing the majority of the following season due to injury, the Capitals traded Nylander to the Boston Bruins on March 4, 2004 for Boston’s fourth-round compensatory pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (the Capitals used the pick on defenseman Patrick McNeill) and Boston’s second-round pick in 2006 (used on forward Francois Bouchard). Nylander played in 15 games for Boston, recording one goal and 11 assists, before signing with the New York Rangers in the offseason (which would ultimately turn into a lockout-cancelled season).
Following a stint in the KHL during the lockout, Nylander returned to the NHL to play two seasons with the Rangers before signing with the Capitals on July 2, 2007 as an unrestricted free agent to a four-year, $19.5 million contract. In the first season of his second stint with the Caps, Nylander scored 11 goals and added 26 assists for 37 points in 40 games played; his season was ended after tearing his rotator cuff. In the second season of his four-year contract with the Capitals, Nylander played in 72 games, recording 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists). Many felt Nylander (who by that time was 36-years old) was not living up to his contract. The Capitals attempted to deal him in a trade, but few teams were willing to take on his $4.875 million cap hit. The Capitals ultimately loaned him to the Detroit Red Wings, who loaned him to their AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins. Nylander then bounced to Jokerit of the SM-Liga, with whom he finished the 2009-10 season. The following season, he played in the AHL with the Florida Panthers’ AHL affiliate Rochester Americans, despite his rights being owned by the Capitals. After recovering from a back injury, Nylander signed a professional tryout offer with the Philadelphia Flyers, before being released. Afterwards, he finished his career in Europe.
In parts of four seasons in two separate stints in the District, Nylander scored 37 goals and added 91 assists for 128 points in 186 games played, with a minus-15 rating. In a total of nine playoff games with the Capitals (in 2003 and 2009), Nylander recorded five points (three goals, two assists), with all five coming in 2003. It is fair to say that Nylander’s second stint in D.C. was not a successful one, considering that he played the final two seasons of his contract with other organizations. Nylander was instrumental in the mentoring of fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom during Backstrom’s rookie season in 2007-08.
By Michael Fleetwood
Thank you for the memory, Mr. Fleetwood! But you bring up a touchy subject of GREAT PAIN in Capitals’ history. Michael Nylander was a steady and very effective Center for the Caps before …. before … before the GREAT STUPID of the 2003 season. Just before beginning of the regular season, future Hall-of-Famer Nolan Yonkman squashed Nylander against the boards during practice — PRACTICE! — and severely injured his teammate, breaking his leg and putting him out for the year. A whole lot of Caps’ fans (and players and management) were not pleased! The Caps lost an excellent veteran center-forward for a whole season. Nylander was “never the same” after the injury at the hands of the buffoonish D-man, who despite being immense was never an effective NHL defender. And the Caps stunk it up that season, leading to Glen Hanlon’s firing and the arrival of the immortal Butch Cassidy. It took forever for Nylander to return to duty, and his speed and jump just weren’t there. Fans and coaches derided Nylander, and coach Boudreau banished him from the ice, leading to the bizarre “loan” to Detroit.
Oops — Mistake above, Hanlon was replaced by Bruce Boudreau. Of Course! But the leg-breaking incident sticks in my craw because the Caps needed Nylander that year, and the injury incident was just plain stupid
I remember everyone was happy when Caps had acquired MN, outbidding Edmonton, 2007. But then he hurt his shoulder, needed surgery, and was not the same when he come back. Of course there was a change in coaches too, from Hanlon to Boudreau. It got to the point where they only folks wanting Nylander in DC were the coaches with the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association who were coaching his kids.
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