- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2000

The Washington Capitals yesterday acquired the right-handed shot they have been searching for and got him for almost nothing. Now it is time to see if he was worth the price.

The Caps re-acquired veteran right wing Dmitri Khristich from Toronto in exchange for a third-round draft pick in June (which the Caps acquired from Tampa Bay), with the Leafs picking up an unknown portion of Khristich's $3.25 million salary. The wing is expected to play for the Caps tonight against the Islanders in New York.

It is believed the 31-year-old wing, who was a Cap for five seasons, will play on the right side on Adam Oates' first line with Chris Simon on the left.

"We had been trying to acquire a right-handed shot for a while, and there aren't too many out there," general manager George McPhee said. "We're a very hard-working team, and we needed to inject some skill into our offense. This is a player who can play lots of different places, and he is a top first- or second-line player in this league. We're hoping to boost our goal production from two-to-three goals a game to three to four a game."

Oates has not had a full-time partner on the right side since the team did not re-sign Brian Bellows last season. The addition of Khristich gives the skilled Oates a talented receiver who should be able to take advantage of some of the center's offerings.

But Khristich comes with baggage. He was dealt to Los Angeles in 1995 along with goalie Byron Dafoe (the Caps got a first-round draft pick who turned out to be Alexandre Volchkov, now out of hockey). He spent two seasons with the Kings before being traded to Boston. He scored 29 goals in each of his two seasons there but then took the Bruins to arbitration. Khristich won his case and was awarded $2.8 million, but Boston walked away from the contract, something not done before or since.

A restricted free agent, Khristich ended up in Toronto, signing a four-year deal for $10.29 million. He had 12 goals in 53 games last season but only three in 27 this year. He was booed often and with gusto in Air Canada Centre and reportedly was not well-received by his teammates.

"I know he hasn't played well in Toronto," McPhee said, "but everywhere else he's played he's been a 60- or 70-point player… . In the last five weeks he's felt better, he's starting to come around and I think we're getting him at the right time."

McPhee said the coaching and scouting staffs were in favor of getting the wing. Dale Hunter, whom the general manager puts a great deal of trust in, strongly recommended the Caps get Khristich. Hunter and Khristich were teammates in Washington.

"Dale said, 'He made me a better player because he's got skill. If you can get him, get him,' " according to McPhee. "Dale's opinion goes a long way with me."

Khristich, a sixth-round pick by the Caps in 1988, played in Washington from 1990-91 to 1994-95, scoring 121 goals and 250 points. Forty-two of his goals were on the power play, an area in which Washington is always in need of a boost.

The deal comes at a strange time for Toronto. Left wing Steve Thomas yesterday had knee surgery and is out for at least six weeks, an odd time to be trading a skilled wing, no matter how unpopular.

"[Leafs general manager/coach Pat] Quinn made the commitment before Thomas' surgery, so he couldn't back out," McPhee said.

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