- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Washington Capitals yesterday announced the signing of one player and listed nine others who have been offered qualifying offers that bind them to the team while guaranteeing at least 10 percent salary increases.

The club said right wing Brian Willsie had signed a one-year deal, meaning the team now has 16 players under contract.

Jeff Halpern, Graham Mink, Maxime Ouellet, Stephen Peat, Matt Pettinger, Rastislav Stana, Brendan Witt, Nolan Yonkman and Dainius Zubrus were sent qualifying offers. Halpern, Witt and Zubrus have the right to file for arbitration. All three have been previously involved in arbitration or holdouts.

As with most other teams, the Caps’ roster is wafer thin right now because of the uncertainty surrounding a new collective bargaining agreement. The current one expires Sept.15, and owners have said there will be a lockout if a new one is not signed by then.

More than 20 players who appeared for the team last season have not been offered contracts and will become unrestricted free agents today. Those include defensemen Josef Boumedienne, J.F. Fortin, Todd Rohloff, Rick Berry, Joel Kwiatkowski and Jason Doig, all regulars at one time or another at a position where the team is the thinnest.

Other notable players not offered deals were Kip Miller, Bates Battaglia, Ivan Ciernik, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre and Trent Whitfield.

The goaltending picture also might be muddled. Former Vezina Trophy winner Olie Kolzig is under contract, as is Justin Eddy, but the latter is right out of college and might not be ready for the NHL for years, if ever. Ouellet is restricted, Stana has already signed a contract to play in Sweden this season, and Sebastien Charpentier, who has been in the organization since he was drafted in 1995, will not be offered a new contract.

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