- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

Disgruntled Washington Capitals center Adam Oates said yesterday he would honor his contract and report to training camp Tuesday but his mind is made up: He wants to be traded.

"I'm not going to violate my contract. I'm not going to give them a reason to suspend me," Oates said from his home on Cape Cod. A team meeting and medical exams are scheduled Tuesday, and Oates said he would be present.

"But my position hasn't changed. I still hope to get traded," the 39-year-old center said.

Washington general manager George McPhee acknowledged talking to Oates earlier but would not comment.

But team sources insisted the team will not grant the center's primary demand, that the one year left on his contract be renegotiated into a two-year deal.

Those sources also said Oates would be stripped of his team captaincy because of comments he made about management and some teammates since the season ended. Oates was the ninth captain in team history and served for two seasons.

Oates is in the final year of a contract that already was extended once and will pay him $3 million, a bargain for a frontline center on today's market. But Oates has asked for a new contract that will carry him through 2002-03, and the club has indicated that won't happen, at least not in an atmosphere ill-suited for negotiations.

The dispute started in March when the Caps acquired center-right wing Trevor Linden from Montreal. Oates' playing time was reduced almost immediately, with Linden picking up the difference. Oates said he was lowered in the pecking order and he was assigned wings who were less apt to take advantage of his playmaking skills.

Privately, team officials were saying Oates had slowed down, lost a step or was being rested for the playoffs. Oates responded by making the obvious connection that he hadn't slowed down until the arrival of Linden.

On June 11, when the team traded for four-time reigning NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, coach Ron Wilson said he would like to use Oates and Jagr possibly with Peter Bondra on the left side, creating a super line. Oates, who shared the NHL assist lead with Jagr last season (both had 69), was not impressed.

"I think that's funny," Oates said yesterday. "You pay $15 million for Jagr, and you're going to play him with a guy you don't think is worth more than nine months? It's silly, weird that Wilson would say he's going to play Jagr with Adam. Just based on the way the year ended, the last two months, I think my coach gave up on me and thinks I'm done. Based on that, why would you want to play him with the best player in the world? Wouldn't you want to move forward?"

Wilson said his position had not changed from what he said a month ago, that he could understood Oates being upset the way the season ended with a playoff loss to Pittsburgh but hoped differences could be worked out the way they were between the coach and Bondra a year ago.

"It's their position, not mine," Oates said when asked if he thought an agreement could be reached. "Think about it: They haven't even come to terms with [restricted free agent] Jeff Halpern. That blows my mind. I don't think they're really interested in Adam. Obviously they're not; that's why I said what I did about Wilson's comments. I think they're funny."

Where would he like to go?

"Anywhere, anywhere where I'm wanted for two years, where I'm appreciated," Oates said.

Oates has played 16 seasons in the league and has long been one of the more underrated centers in the NHL, possibly because he has never received the recognition that comes with winning a Stanley Cup. He has earned more than 50 assists every season since 1988-89 but two, one when he missed 23 games with an injury and the 48-game 1994-95 lockout season. He has 963 career assists now and, barring injury, should easily reach his longtime goal of 1,000 this season.

The question is, where?

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