- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000


As predictable as death, taxes and the swallows coming back to Capistrano, the surest sign that hockey season has arrived is the return of a signed contract from Sergei Gonchar.
The Washington Capitals said last night the defenseman had signed a four-year deal, longest in his career, ending a 27-day holdout. He will receive $13.3 million but to get that amount he will be required to attend training camp for the next three Septembers.
That was only part of yesterday's news as training camp wound down. To reach the mandatory 23-player limit by 3 p.m. yesterday, the Caps also farmed out defenseman Dmitri Mironov and utility forward Terry Yake to their Portland, Maine, farm team in the American League.
Last night, to make room for Gonchar, the Caps sent promising rookie defenseman Mike Farrell to Portland. That saved a spot for 18-year-old rookie defenseman Jakub Cutta, who would have been returned to his junior team, making a recall by Washington nearly impossible this season.
Also last night, the Caps concluded their exhibition season by dropping a 5-3 decision to Carolina, finishing at 2-5-1. Richard Zednik had two goals for the Caps.
General manager George McPhee said Gonchar had been in Toronto during his hiatus and was en route to the area but he was uncertain of the defender's conditioning. He said Gonchar would not play in either of the team's games this weekend.
"He has established himself as one of the elite defensemen in the league over the past couple years, he has led all defensemen in goal-scoring [39] the last couple years so we rewarded him with a long-term deal," McPhee said. "He has proven to us what kind of player he is, so we were willing to spend a lot of money and lock him up for four years."
The signing of Gonchar leaves Washington with just one holdout, left wing Chris Simon, and the two sides are reportedly far apart.
"We're still talking," McPhee said. "As with Gonchar, we've done deals that were a one-year, two-year terms until we knew what we had, and when we know what we have we lock 'em up. We're prepared to do that with Simon if he wants to come back on a one-year deal, have a similar year to last year's, and we would be prepared to lock him up after that. There has to be some sharing of the risk here."
All of Simon's statistics last season, including his 75 games played, were career highs led by his team-high 29 goals.
Mironov is in the third year of a deal that is scheduled to pay him $12 million but the coaches have found his effort lacking on many nights. Despite being in better shape than years past, he played in only two exhibition games and did not play well. With seven defensemen on the roster and a ready Farrell in the wings, it is assumed the Caps will buy out Mironov's contract if a deal can't be worked out.

Notes The Portland Pirates yesterday signed Corey Hirsch, the former NHL standout, to a 25-game tryout contract. It is assumed that if a goalie with Washington is hurt before Olie Kolzig is ready to return, that would make Hirsch available to help out… . WNAV (AM-1430) in Annapolis yesterday signed on to carry 65 of the 82 Caps games, joining AM-980 or AM-570 in Washington.

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