- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The Washington Capitals conducted media day yesterday but the team saved the biggest announcement of the day until last night.
The Caps acquired right wing Mike Grier in a trade with Edmonton, the Oilers getting second- and third-round draft picks in June. Grier played six physical seasons in Edmonton, scoring 81 goals and 183 points, after three seasons at Boston University.
At 6-foot-1, nearly 230 pounds, Grier scored 15 or more goals in three of his six NHL seasons and became available only because Edmonton has to cut costs. Grier and his salary of $1,348,750 became expendable.
He seems a perfect fit on the right side to rebuild the checking line with center Jeff Halpern and left wing Steve Konowalchuk. He might even be bumped up to the second line to play the right side with Robert Lang and Peter Bondra.
"He's an honest hockey player, he plays hard, he plays both ends of the ice and is capable of scoring 20 goals," said general manager George McPhee last night. The trade immediately makes the Caps a tougher team in the Eastern Conference, where toughness often makes a difference.
Grier's arrival will cost somebody a job. Even before the trade, the Caps were three players over the roster limit, not counting one player who might end up on injured reserve and two players who continue to hold out, centers Andrei Nikolishin and Dainius Zubrus.
The Caps skated three goalies, nine defensemen and 13 forwards at practice yesterday and center Brian Sutherby was in the trainer's rooms. Washington must submit a 23-man roster to the league no later than 3p.m. today, meaning several moves must be made.
"We have some tough decisions to make but you don't want them to be easy," said McPhee. Earlier he had reduced the roster by four when he sent twins Chris and Peter Ferraro to Portland along with defensemen Nolan Yonkman and Jason Doig.
Doig, a lifer in the minors, had an impressive camp but was caught in the numbers game. Yonkman (6-6, 240) has got to learn to be more punishing when he makes contact.
Among the players who stayed was Steve Eminger, who turns 19 on Halloween. He made the roster in his first pro camp; he was drafted by the Caps 12th last June. He signed a contract yesterday at the mandatory rookie salary cap, approximately $1,125,000 over three years.
Seven players age 33 or older who played for the Caps last season are no longer on the roster, and that figure could grow. Decisions have to be made today on defenseman Sylvain Cote, 38, and goalie Craig Billington, 36.
"You're talking nine, maybe 10, 11 different faces, faces that were here last year that aren't here now," said McPhee.
"[The replacements are] quicker players and they're hungry and that's what you want. We want a team that's really going to compete and be a hard team to play against."
Coach Bruce Cassidy, who has been mild-mannered and almost soft-spoken so far, let loose yesterday when the team appeared to be going through the motions on a breakout drill. His whistle sounded, shriller than usual, and he said his piece.
"Listen," he barked, "if you guys want to skate, fine, we can skate all day, I don't care. We'll skate until we do this right. I don't think it's too much to ask to have a simple D-to-D pass to lead the breakout. Let's go."
Notes The team will vote today on a captain.
Defenseman Calle Johansson will see shoulder specialists in Lexington, Ky., today for a last check on his rotator cuff surgery before the season begins Friday against Nashville.
The Caps are counting on Halpern's groin to be ready in time for the opener. He missed all eight preseason games and many of the practices after spending the summer coming back from reconstructive knee surgery. He is not in game shape but has three days to work on it.
Sutherby's bruised shoulder makes him questionable for the opener.
Bondra (6-4-10) and Glen Metropolit (5-5-10) were tied for second in the league in preseason scoring; Montreal's Mariusz Czerkawski had 11 points.



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