- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Calle Johansson, who has played more games for the Washington Capitals than any player in team history, is only a “formality” away from being hired as the European scout for the club.

General manager George McPhee confirmed yesterday that the team and Johansson are very close to a deal which will have the defenseman serving as the amateur scout in Finland, his native Sweden, plus major tournaments throughout Europe. It means Johansson will officially retire after 16 seasons in the NHL.

“We discussed all the requirements of the job and if we can reach a contract agreement this week, we’ll move ahead,” McPhee said.

Johansson and the team announced a “mutual separation” on May 7, ending the defenseman’s playing days with the Caps. An angry Johansson took a verbal shot at coach Bruce Cassidy after the player, a fixture on the blueline since 1989, saw only limited action during the team’s three-overtime loss to Tampa Bay in the deciding game of the playoffs April 20.

Also, Petr Sykora, for the moment at least, is not a Washington Capital and there is no real prospect he will be any time soon. The talented forward from the Czech Republic agreed to a contract and then reneged on signing it. The deadline for him to sign, without paying a severe penalty, passed.

The Caps were so sure they had the 24-year-old this time they sent out a news release on July 3 saying Sykora “signed” a contract for one year with a club option for a second. In fact, it was the forward’s agent who signed the document and forwarded it to his client for his signature. The deadline for submitting the contract to the league was July 15. The Caps still haven’t received the signed piece of paper so there is nothing to submit.

League sources say the player held off on signing the contract in hopes of a better deal at the last minute. He apparently did not understand the finality of the deadline language. He does now and knows his only chance at a potential $1.3 million deal is to buy his way out of his contract with Pardubice in the Czech Elite League.

Based on his history, it’s doubtful Sykora will get any help from the Caps.

The Caps said they did re-sign center Trent Whitfield to a one-year deal. Whitfield, 26, was recalled late in the season because the club needed his hard-nosed defensive play and his ability to win faceoffs, an area where the team suffered all season. He’s played 100 NHL games in his career.

Notes — No date has been set for Michael Nylander’s arbitration hearing but the Caps will try to head it off with a contract offer before the date arrives. … A lot of veteran free agents decided to test free agency this summer and defenseman Ken Klee was one of them. But the market has dried up for all but a few and not many are finding gold at the end of rainbows. A source said yesterday chances are not good Klee will return to the Caps. … Twenty-one prospects are working out daily through Friday from noon to 1:30 p.m. on the ice at Piney Orchard. Nine of those involved are collegians who have to fork over the money to cover all expenses to attend the team development camp or risk losing NCAA eligibility. Among those taking part is Stephen Werner, the local product who was taken second in last month’s draft by Washington. Now at the University of Massachusetts, he is a graduate of the Little Caps hockey program that also turned out Jeff Halpern. Werner opened more than a few eyes yesterday with his speed, a factor what might get him to the Big Caps a lot quicker than he realizes.

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