- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

Another day, another expensive veteran sent packing. The Washington Capitals yesterday sent center Michael Nylander to Boston for a second-round pick, likely in 2006, and future considerations a day after trading three-time All-Star defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Bruins.

“Given that Michael will be a free agent this summer and that we’re not going to enter into any long-term contracts until we know what the new collective bargaining agreement is, we gave him the opportunity to play in the playoffs,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “He was appreciative. Michael played very well for us. He’s very clever and very competitive. Rather than let him go for nothing this summer, we got an asset.”

Nylander, 31, makes $2.675million, leaving goalie Olie Kolzig ($6.25million) and right wing Anson Carter ($2.8million) as the only Caps above $1.75million. And as fine a passer as Nylander is — he had assists in his first two games back after missing 21 weeks with a broken leg — he wasn’t ingrained in coach Glen Hanlon’s retooling project.

“Everyone knew Gonchy was going, but Nyles was a bit of a surprise,” Kolzig said. “I don’t know if there’s much left in this room to get traded. You have to keep some core.”

McPhee continues to talk with his fellow GMs about dealing Kolzig, defenseman Brendan Witt ($1.75million) and winger Mike Grier ($1.632million) before Tuesday’s deadline. However, Kolzig’s high salary could make him part of that core by default.

“A few weeks ago, I thought I was getting traded for sure, and now I don’t know,” said Kolzig, who at 31 is playing his best hockey of the year with 12 goals allowed in his past six starts. “It has gotten real quiet. Maybe that’s just the calm before the storm. There’s still plenty of time left.”

Said Witt, 29: “The worst part is just waiting for something to happen, if anything happens at all. I don’t think anybody likes not being in control. Playing hockey gets your mind off it. I’m still a Cap. If I get moved, it’s a business.”

Unlike Kolzig and Witt, the last links to the Caps’ 1998 Stanley Cup finalists, Grier is only in his second year in Washington and knows what it’s like to be traded.

“I’m not overly worried about it,” said Grier, 29. “It has been harder for some of the other guys whose names have been out there a lot more than mine.”

The Caps did add a player yesterday, claiming defenseman Brad Norton off waivers from Los Angeles. Like defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, acquired in the Gonchar trade, Norton is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Norton is a depth defenseman in the mold of fellow waiver pickup Todd Rohloff. Norton has a feisty streak, having accumulated 174 penalty minutes in 73 games for the Kings during the past two seasons with eight points and an even defensive rating.

With Rick Berry now a forward in the wake of Nylander’s departure, Witt’s 553 NHL games are more than Washington’s other five defensemen combined. And since the Caps last played the Rangers 37 days ago, each team has traded three of its top scorers, with Brian Leetch, Alex Kovalev and Petr Nedved all departing New York this week.

“We’ve been doing it longer than they have, so we’ve had more practice at playing with players removed from our lineup,” said Hanlon, typically finding the silver lining.

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