- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

SUNRISE, Fla. The Washington Capitals hoped they could start to find some of the missing pieces for their offense at the NHL draft, not with the youngsters available for the past two days but through deals with other teams.

It didn't happen. But perhaps the groundwork for what may come later was laid through the nonstop chats with general managers, scouts and coaches.

"The draft is always a good opportunity to get together and talk," Washington general manager George McPhee said yesterday after the team concluded its selection process, adding eight more amateurs to the two it took on the first day of the draft.

"I don't understand why we all feel so chatty at these sessions because we can talk to each other at any time, but at the draft everyone seems to want to make a trade. Everybody wants to talk about picks, but there are lots of trades here that don't involve picks. We talked to all kinds of teams trying to determine what the market is, what value is, and the Yashin trade certainly indicates what value is out there now for elite [restricted] players."

McPhee was referring to Saturday's deal wherein Ottawa sent superstar center Alexei Yashin to the New York Islanders for the second pick overall, defenseman Zdeno Chara and right wing Bill Muckalt.

The belief among NHL observers was that the Islanders got a player of Yashin's considerable magnitude pretty cheap. That might have sent shivers down the backs of agents trying to find jobs for free agents this summer.

"The value is not as much as it used to be because you can sign [unrestricted] free agents now that cost just as much or even less than what [restricted] free agents do, and you don't have to give up players," McPhee said. "The Yashin deal sort of revealed to everyone what value might be, so we'll go forward and work on that basis."

McPhee's point was that a barometer had not been set before the Yashin deal for value on the upper end of the scale. What might drive down the cost are the huge dollar figures the elite players are seeking, figures almost all teams are unable to afford.

"Everybody would like to have them," McPhee said of Yashin, Jaromir Jagr and the like, "but few teams can afford them, and even fewer have the assets and money to even trade for them."

For the Islanders, the Yashin deal might be a huge gamble that backfires. The center is unsigned and has a history of holding out, a point he made clear by sitting for an entire season two years ago. He returned to Ottawa only when he was ordered by a court to do so. And New York made a second gamble yesterday, acquiring Michael Peca, who held out last season, from the Buffalo Sabres.

Meanwhile, the Caps selected eight players yesterday to give them 10 picks for the two-day session: one goalie, four defensemen and five forwards. They range in age from 17 to 22, and none will play in the NHL this coming season.

"All the players we drafted this year have speed," McPhee said. "We feel like we've drafted good size in the last couple drafts. This draft it seems the players we selected can all fly. And that's going to be the base of the spinal column for this team we've got big guys, we've got speed guys and one day we're going to wake up and they'll all be part of our team."

Taken yesterday were Jeff Lucky, a right wing for Spokane in the Western Hockey League, in the fourth round; Artem Ternavsky, a Russian defenseman playing for Sherbrooke in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, fifth round; Zbynek Novak, a forward for Slavia in the Czech League, sixth round; John Oduya, a defenseman for Victoriaville in the QMJHL, seventh round; Matt Maglione, a defenseman at Princeton University, and Peter Polcik, a forward from Nitra in the Slovakian League, both in the eighth round; and Robert Muller, a goalie for Adler Mannheim in the German Elite League, and Viktor Hubl, a forward for Slavia Praha in the Czech League, both in the ninth round.

"The season doesn't start until Oct. 1," McPhee said. "We talked to teams while we were here, and we'll continue to talk to teams. And when the right deal comes along, we'll do it."

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