- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Jeff Halpern and the Washington Capitals reached a compromise settlement yesterday as the 25-year-old center agreed to a two-year deal with a club option for a third season that could pay him as much as $3.45 million in total salary.

Details initially were hard to come by because the contract seemingly was done on the run. Halpern told his agent and former Washington goalie Mike Liut that he wanted it completed yesterday.

With the feeling that agreement was close, Halpern was granted permission to take part in practice although nothing had been finalized. The player phoned his agent en route to practice to find out how things were going; the club issued a release saying it was done before the player was off the ice. The signing ended Halpern's 12-day holdout.

"How much is it for? I don't know. Is it done? Are you sure?" Halpern asked when approached by reporters after drills. He will average $1 million this season and next, double what he made last season.

There was little doubt Halpern, a Montgomery County native and lifelong Caps fan, was going stir crazy not being on the ice with teammates. Working out at the new Ice Dreams rink in Glenn Dale with former Cap Craig Berube and a few friends, the Princeton graduate said "what was going on [in the world] at this time" was a big factor in the timing of his return.

"You look around and figure where you want to be and this is where I'm happiest right now," Halpern said. "The biggest thing right now is to play with guys in your face and dig in the corners."

But he won't practice over the Yom Kippur holiday, which concludes tonight at sundown.

"It has nothing to do with my contract it's a religious holiday," he said. "I've never been a real religious person, but given what's going on in the world, I think I owe it to a lot of people to take the day off."

Taking into account his personal training habits, it was a given that Halpern would report in good physical shape, but he needs to practice in a team atmosphere to regain his timing.

"He's an important part of the team, and we're glad he's back so we can get down to business preparing for opening night," said coach Ron Wilson. "He'll be ready October 6, definitely."

The signing clears a major obstacle the team faced and lessens the urgency to sign 19-year-old center Brian Sutherby, who had been Halpern's understudy centering Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen. Sutherby must return to junior hockey if the Caps don't keep him on the main roster.

"It got to the point where Jeff wanted to get on with things, and in light of everything else that's going on in the world, he felt this was the best thing to do at this time," said Liut.

Notes Wilson said he didn't expect defenseman Brendan Witt, who injured a knee Tuesday night in Philadelphia, to be out very long… . Left wing Chris Simon received medical clearance to start contact drills after rehabilitating from his latest round of shoulder surgery and was given a good going over yesterday by Ken Klee and Trevor Linden. Simon pronounced himself ready to play, a decision that's up to the coaches… .

Washington sent defenseman Nolan Yonkman to Portland, Maine, reducing the roster to 28… . No real surprises are on the Caps' waiver draft list. Among others, defenseman Frantisek Kucera, obtained in the Jaromir Jagr deal, was exposed as was right wing Dmitri Khristich, who is likely not to be selected with a salary of $3.5 million. The draft is at noon tomorrow.

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