- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

Rico Fata, claimed off waivers by Washington on Thursday, came to the Capitals with a reputation of being fast — very fast. He wasted no time Friday night against New Jersey putting that speed on display.

With the Caps, a team that puts speed on the same level as scoring and defense, Fata’s ability to do things in a hurry might well separate him from others who will be seeking jobs next season.

“I think our system can utilize his speed to the fullest,” coach Glen Hanlon said yesterday. “We like to apply pressure and get up the ice in a hurry, so I think this system is perfect for him. It’s a fairly simple system — it frees people to skate.”

That being the case, Fata’s seemingly never-ending tour from league to league and team to team may have finally ended.

“Yeah, that’s basically what it is, a tryout,” Fata acknowledged yesterday. “If I can contribute, hopefully they’ll consider offering me a contract for next season. You’re playing for your career, your livelihood, providing for yourself and your family.”

Fata, who has a younger brother playing in the Pittsburgh farm system, turned 26 last month. The 6-foot, 202-pound Ontario native shoots left but can play all three forward positions, which makes him more valuable right away.

The Caps are his fifth NHL team (Calgary, which drafted him sixth overall in 1998; New York Rangers; Pittsburgh; and Atlanta), which shows he is not doing enough to solidify a position. But Friday night was his 200th league game, meaning he is doing enough to stay in the mix long enough to be halfway to a fully vested pension.

Washington probably will be in search of long-term solutions for another two or three years. It has a slew of former first-round picks like Fata, guys who haven’t been able to stick for one reason or another.

The Caps also reacquired center Kris Beech from Nashville on Thursday along with the Predators’ first-round pick in June for defenseman Brendan Witt. The Beech and Fata situations are similar — one-time high picks who no longer dare sign long-term apartment leases.

Beech, 25, was taken seventh overall by Washington in 1999 but played only four games with the Caps before being sent to Pittsburgh as part of the Jaromir Jagr deal. He spent one season (10 goals, 15 assists) with the Penguins before being sent down and spending most of his time in the minors. He was traded to Nashville in September but played only five games with the Predators before being farmed out again.

Yet Hanlon refused to look at the Caps’ moves as opportunities for tryouts.

“They’re two people we wanted,” he said yesterday. “In the trade with Witt, Beech was somebody we wanted. We drafted him. With Rico, we talked about him earlier when Atlanta picked him up, but at the time we had enough players. His name came up again, we needed a player and it was the perfect time to get him.”

Both will be in the lineup today when Ottawa plays a matinee at Verizon Center.

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