Rod Langway could be back in the NHL next season, but it won't be with the Washington Capitals.
The Caps released their longtime defenseman yesterday, a formality that ended a turmoil-riddled, yearlong relationship between team and player.
Langway, 36, is now free to negotiate with any other club and, according to his agent, there have been serious talks that would give Langway a chance to return to the NHL.
"Rod will be wearing a team jersey next year," said Mark Barondess, when reached at his office in Tysons Corner, Va.
Langway did not return a phone call last night.
The Capitals wanted Langway to end his career in Washington. But Langway could now end up with a divisional rival.
"We still have an employment contract with Rod. We are respecting Rod's desire to continue his career and wish him the very best," said Capitals general manager David Poile.
Langway arrived in a six-player trade with the Montreal Canadiens before the 1982-83 season and was immediately named team captain.
The Capitals improved by 29 points that season and qualified for their first playoff appearance. Langway was recognized as the league's best defenseman and won the first of two straight Norris trophies.
His punishing defensive style made Langway an essential part of the Capitals' success for 10 years -- from 1983 to 1992 Washington averaged 42 wins and 92 points per season -- but he averaged just 59 games between the 1989-90 and 1990-92 seasons and prior to last year it became apparent that his role on the blue line would be reduced.
Washington built a defense around four offensive-minded skaters -- Al Iafrate, Kevin Hatcher, Sylvain Cote and Calle Johansson -- and Langway's style contrasted with the team's plans.
Langway sat out the early part of the season recovering from knee and shoulder surgery, then came back and was used sparingly.
With the Capitals fighting for a playoff spot in early March, Langway departed the team and assessed his options -- to retire or join another club.
Langway failed to record a point last year in 21 games.