- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

The Washington Capitals yesterday signed two players they hope will be major factors in the team’s rebuilding program.

The Caps signed right wing Jonas Johansson and left wing Tomas Fleischmann to three-year contracts. Yesterday was the final day the pair, members of the 2002 draft class, could be signed before returning to the draft.

Washington previously had signed four of the players it drafted from that class: defenseman Steve Eminger (picked 12th overall), left wing Alexander Semin (13th), right wing/center Boyd Gordon (17th) and goalie Maxime Daigneault (59). Nine other players drafted by Washington that year were not signed.

Johansson, 20, was Colorado’s first pick in 2002, 28th overall; his rights were obtained in the October deal that sent Washington captain Steve Konowalchuk to the Avalanche. Fleischmann, also 20, was Detroit’s second pick, 63rd overall. His rights were obtained in the February trade that sent center Robert Lang to the Red Wings.

“They are both exciting young talents and, with our numerous other young assets, make the future of this organization very bright,” general manager George McPhee said in a press release.

The Caps went through a campaign last season so bad it almost defies description. In a series of cost-cutting moves, virtually every player with any market value was traded for young prospects or draft picks. Coach Bruce Cassidy, with a record of 8-18-1-1, was fired Dec. 10, and in late January team owner Ted Leonsis was fined $100,000 and suspended for seven days by the league after a dust-up with a fan inside MCI Center.

Midway through the season, the Caps started sending their better prospects to the Portland (Maine) Pirates in the American Hockey League, hoping they would develop closer bonds while playing together as units and would get some extra ice time.

Those players included center Brooks Laich, Gordon, right wing Owen Fussey, defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, center Brian Sutherby, Semin, Eminger, center Aulin Jared and oft-injured defenseman Nolan Yonkman.

Johansson is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. He played the past two seasons with Kamloops, British Columbia, in the Western Hockey League. He had 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games last season and 28 goals and 72 points in 98 games for his Junior A team.

Fleischmann, 6-foot, 185 pounds, had 33 goals and 75 points in 60 games for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, also in the WHL.

Elsewhere, Russia announced its team yesterday for the World Cup of Hockey tournament scheduled for early fall. Among those selected were Caps center/left wing Dainius Zubrus.

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