- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

The Washington Capitals tied up a lot of loose ends yesterday, trading two bodies to Chicago in return for an offensive center, farming out an 18-year veteran on defense and recalling a major part of what they hope is the future.

In the process, they got down to the 23-man roster limit without fudging.

The Caps acquired 30-year-old center Michael Nylander from the Chicago Blackhawks for left wing Chris Simon and holdout center Andrei Nikolishin, a restricted free agent. Washington also got a third round pick in the June draft and a conditional third rounder in the 2004 draft.

Additionally Washington recalled center Brian Sutherby from its Portland, Maine, farm team and assigned defenseman Sylvain Cote to the Pirates. Cote hasn't played in the minors since 1985.

In the process, Washington lowered its payroll by $750,000, the difference between what Simon makes this season ($2,500,000) and what Nylander makes.

Nikolishin, 29, immediately signed a two-year contract with the Blackhawks, paying him $1.5million this season and $1.75million next. He had been seeking about $1.75million from the Caps; they were offering about $1.35million.

The combined maneuvers yesterday solidified the team down the middle, a spot where it had been weak with Nikolishin holding out and Adam Oates traded. It gives the Caps five centers Robert Lang, Nylander, Jeff Halpern, Sutherby and Glen Metropolit and allows them to move Dainius Zubrus and Kip Miller back to their natural positions on the wing.

"Nylander is a player we expressed interest in a year ago," said general manager George McPhee. "Just last week, Chicago came to the conclusion that it had three offensive centers and what they were looking for was more of a defensive center. Given that is something that Nikolishin can do well, they had the flexibility of moving Nylander."

Nylander is well traveled if nothing else. He has played in three European countries, plus on four NHL teams. He was traded by Tampa Bay to Chicago in November 1999 and has scored 63 goals in less than three seasons for the Blackhawks. He has also played on the Swedish Olympic team with Caps defenseman Calle Johansson.

Sutherby, a 20-year-old rookie, was considered a lock to make the Caps out of training camp but sustained a shoulder injury, was outplayed for the vacant spot by Metropolit and was demoted before the season started. He has played three games with Portland with three assists.

"We just thought he could add a little bite to our lineup, and give us reliable play on the fourth line," McPhee said. "He's a smart player, he's good defensively so he can learn that part of the game in this league while getting six to eight minutes a night on the fourth line. He'll just get better as we go along."

Cote played just one game this season and did not look good, somewhat excusable because he had sat for seven straight games. He has been in the league for 18 seasons and is 29 games short of playing in 1,200 NHL contests. He makes his offseason home in Annapolis and is the owner of a commercial fishing boat.

Simon is in the last year of a three-year deal and did not get off to a good start, making his salary top-heavy. He went from the first line to the fourth in one quick move when he took a bad double minor in the opening minutes of the Dallas game on Oct.20, and the Stars converted both ends.

Only three seasons ago, Simon posted career offensive stats across the board with 29 goals, 20 assists and 49 points in 75 games. He held out the following fall and never regained that form, although repeated shoulder surgeries did not help.

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