Capitals miss goal of landing a top scorer Hrivnak sent to Jets for backup goalie


The deal that would bring a big scorer to the Washington Capitals before the end of the trading deadline yesterday never happened. Instead, Washington sent backup goalie Jim Hrivnak to the Winnipeg Jets for backup Rick Tabaracci.

Capitals general manager David Poile kept his team intact, basically because the offensive player he had hoped to find just wasn't there.

"[The Hartford Whalers'] Murray Craven was the best one out there and I had lots of conversations with [Hartford GM] Brian Burke," Poile said. "We just couldn't reach an agreement."

Burke wanted a top defenseman, such as Sylvain Cote or Calle Johansson, and Poile considered the price too high.

The Whalers ended up dealing Craven to the Vancouver Canucks for left wing Robert Cron. The teams also exchanged draft picks.

The trade Poile did make swapped two 24-year-olds who have yet to establish themselves in the NHL. A year ago, Tabaracci XTC seemed on his way to doing that when he started all seven playoff games against the Canucks and nearly led the Jets to an upset. But when camp opened this season, Tabaracci was not Winnipeg's No. 1 goalie and he has only a 5-10 record with a 4.38 goals-against average this year.

The situation is not much different for Hrivnak (13-9-2, 3.50). He started strong early and battled to a near-equal status with starter Don Beaupre. But when Beaupre began to find himself and coach Terry Murray went with the veteran, Hrivnak's play began to fall off.

"I think in the last couple months that I haven't had as much confidence in Jim as I had had before," Murray said. "I can't put my finger on what happened. Maybe, in both cases, it has been the mental reaction to the situations they've found themselves in. Hopefully, Jimmy will go there and do well and Tabaracci will come in and help."

Hrivnak did not return phone calls, and Tabaracci was traveling to get here for this morning's skate before tonight's game against the Quebec Nordiques. Murray said he plans to get Tabaracci into three or four of the season's final 13 games, but probably would not use him tonight.

The 3 p.m. trading deadline had the Capitals on edge right up to the end. Every time a door opened, players' heads turned, Cote's among them. He was aware his name had come up often in trade rumors.

"The way I look at it is my girlfriend loves me, my mother loves me and I'm healthy," said Cote. "Everything else is gravy. If I get traded, all I have to do is pack, go to the airport pick up a free ticket and they'll give me free Cokes and peanuts all the way to the next stop."

In the end, only Hrivnak had to pack. Poile said he, too, was "happy" the deadline had passed.

"It's a relief for the players, the coach and the [general] manager," he said. "[Everyone] has seen us on our best days and knows we can play very well. . . . What we need to do is string together some consistency."

NOTES: The Capitals sent LW Randy Burridge on loan to the Skipjacks yesterday for two weeks of conditioning. Burridge, recovering from surgery on both knees, said he could join the Skipjacks as early as Thursday in Hamilton. . . . The Capitals also assigned RW Martin Gendron to the Skipjacks from St. Hyacinthe in the Quebec Junior League. In 61 games with St. Hyacinthe, Gendron had 73 goals and 59 assists. . . . Poile said he hopes to know by Friday what the Caps plan to do in regard to the Skipjacks, their American Hockey League affiliate, who are apparently set to move to Portland, Maine. "I'm keeping all my options open," said Poile. "And those options include continuing an agreement with the Skipjacks or working out a sharing agreement with two teams."

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