Petr Sykora, the elusive forward the Washington Capitals have been pursuing, finally may be headed for North America.
Sykora, who can score goals in a European-style of play dominated by defense, reportedly has taken care of paperwork in his native Czech Republic and should be on his way to Washington early this week.
The news came on a day when the Caps announced their training camp roster was being trimmed by 20 players who are all headed for the Hershey Bears’ training camp. Some eventually will be transferred to the Caps’ ECHL affiliate in Charleston, S.C.
There were no big shocks on the list of those sent to the Caps’ American Hockey League affiliate, although some omissions were mildly surprising. The latter group included forwards Chris Bourque and Eric Fehr and defensemen Jeff Schultz and Mike Green — all rookies.
If Sykora arrives, possibly as early as today, it will end one-half the saga of two missing players that has gone on for two-plus years.
Washington thought Sykora, acquired from Nashville three years ago, had signed a contract to play for the 2003-04 season. But the right wing-center neglected to sign his transfer papers by the deadline to come to the NHL that season and stayed home. He was supposed to be here in time for training camp this season but reportedly had trouble with his visa.
The second missing subject is left wing Alexander Semin, a young star in the Russian Super League who played 52 games for the Caps in 2003-04.
He was instructed to report to Portland, Maine, in the AHL for the lockout season but did not show up, claiming he was stopped by Russian authorities on his way to the airport who wanted him to serve his military commitment. The Caps didn’t buy the story and suspended him — a penalty that was ignored in Russia.
Semin, who has been playing for Lada Togliatti in the RSL this season but remains under contract to the Caps, is still in Russia and reportedly has had some difficulty leaving. He is now eight days late for camp.
It’s a difficult situation for the Caps, who had hoped Sykora could be the right wing on the first line and Semin the left wing on the first or second line, depending on where Alexander Ovechkin ends up.
The players cut yesterday were goalies Frederic Cassivi and Kirk Daubenspeck and defensemen Dean Arsene, J.F. Fortin, Martin Wilde, Mark Wotton and Dwayne Zinger. Also sent down were forwards Tomas Fleischmann, Owen Fussey, Robin Gomez, Jonas Johansson, Boyd Kane, Brooks Laich, Eric Labelle, Jeff League, Jason Lehoux, Cam McCaffrey, Graham Mink, Louie Robitaille and David Spina.
“Most of these players need seasoning,” general manager George McPhee said. “The coaches and scouts felt the players who are still with us were a step ahead.”