As we become firmly ensconced in the dog days of summer, here's a look at some things that have happened this week in franchise history.
In looking at weeks in the summer season of Washington Capitals history to date, we have seen that despite the time of year, when the Cup has been won, and we are many weeks from training camp for the next season, there is the low hum of front office activity.
Not so for the week of July 25-31 in Caps history. This looks like the week when we see where that summer lull finally comes into focus. It is not a week in Capitals history characterized be either volume of action or consequence. For example...
July 25, 1989: On this date in 1989, the Caps signed Brian Tutt as a free agent. Caps fans might remember much about Tutt, but one thing about him: he loved the game, at least if the road he traveled is any indication.
Tutt was a left-handed shooting defenseman drafted in the sixth round of the 1980 NHL entry draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the start of a long and winding road that only briefly led him to the NHL, though not with the Flyers. After spending two more years with the Calgary Wranglers in Canadian junior after being drafted, Tutt moved across the continent to start his pro career with the Maine Mariners of the AHL.
From Maine, he went to Toledo...then to Springfield...back to Toledo...then to Hershey...over to Kalamazoo...back to Maine...back to Kalamazoo...then New Haven. Having sampled much of North America, Tutt then went off to Europe, joining the EHC Lustenau club in Austria in 1988. Twenty four games later, he was back in North America with the Baltimore Skipjacks. He played in only six games for the Skipjacks in 1988-89, then the AHL affiliate of the Capitals, but he got someone's attention. He was signed in July to a contract with the big club.
Tutt would play in seven games with the Caps in the 1989-90 season, his only NHL experience. He scored just one goal, but it mattered. On October 16, 1989, the Caps went to Montreal to face the Canadiens and goalie Patrick Roy, who was at the time holding a 35-game unbeaten streak at home. The Caps were down a goal late in the contest when Michal Pivinka scored with 2:08 left to tie the game, and Dale Hunter scored his second goal of the game 3:37 into overtime for the win to end Roy's streak. Brian Tutt scored the other goal for the Capitals in that game to help push the game to extra time.
That would be all for Tutt in the NHL. His hockey journey took him to Norway, Finland, Sweden, back to Finland, and Germany, with tours with the Canadian national team mixed in (his team won a silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics). The journey finally ended, with the Hannover Scorpions in Germany, after the 1999-2000 seasons. He played in more almost 1100 professional and international regular season, postseason, and tournament games over 19 seasons, a thin slice of that with the Capitals.
July 25, 2006: On this date in 2006, the Caps signed Trevor Byrne as a free agent. Byrne started his hockey career in a manner similar to that of Brian Tutt, but the similarities ended quickly. Byrne, also a left-handed shooting defenseman, was a fifth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 1999 NHL entry draft, and after spending four years at Dartmouth College in the ECAC, he started his professional career. It did not last long. He spent three seasons bouncing between the Worcester IceCats (AHL) and Peoria Rivermen (ECHL) before ending up with the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) to close out the 2005-06 season. It was after that season that Byrne was signed by the Caps. He spent part of one year with the Hershey Bears of the AHL, going 1-13-14 in 35 games of the 2006-07 season before moving to the Chicago Wolves.
He played one more year in the AHL, his pro career ending with the Iowa Stars after the 2007-08 season. There is one other thing, though. As a Hershey Bear, Byrne did record a "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" - a goal, an assist, and a fight - against the Albany River Rats in a 7-4 win on December 20, 2006, in what was the 5,000th game in Hershey Bears history.
July 25, 2014: In 2014, the Caps went international on this date in an unconventional way. Nathan Walker, born in Wales and raised in Australia (with a later stop in Czech Republic), was signed by the club after being taken in the third round of the 2014 NHL entry draft by the Caps. Walker has yet to make his debut with the big club, but he does have 144 games of regular season and 20 games of postseason experience with the Hershey Bears. He was the Bears' fourth-leading goal scorer (17) and point producer (41) last season.
July 26, 2006: The only deal the Caps ever made on this date also had a strong connection to the Hershey Bears. It was on this date in 2006 that the Caps signed free agent Dean Arsene. By the time this deal was struck, Arsene was already firmly a part of Hershey Bears history, having played 146 regular season and 21 postseason games with the club over three seasons.
He would play another three seasons for the Bears, with whom he eventually appeared in 267 regular season games (7-36-43, plus-30, 674 penalty minutes) and 49 postseason games (0-5-5, plus-21, 51 penalty minutes, and a Calder Cup). He never played for the Caps, though, and after the 2008-09 season in Hershey he signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he would play his only 13 games of his NHL career in 2009-10. Over the next four seasons he would play for four different AHL teams before retiring after the 2013-14 season.
July 27, 1993: The Caps signed Keith Acton as a free agent. Acton, who before the 1993-94 season had played in almost 1,000 career regular season games and who won a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1988, became something of an elder statesman in his last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, serving as a mentor to then rookie Eric Lindros in the 1992-93 season.
The Caps' signing of Acton was part of a larger piece that summer, taking on ornery players with Flyers experience. Acton, however, would not last as one of the Former Flyer Force. He played just six games with the Caps and was waived, claimed by the New York Islanders on October 22nd. Acton did not have a point in those six games with the Caps and managed just two shots on goal. He played 71 regular season and four playoff games with the Islanders in what would be his last NHL season.
July 27, 1998: The other signing on this date came in 1999, when the Caps signed Joe Sacco. He, too, was a veteran with long NHL experience by the time he arrived in Washington, having appeared in over 500 regular season and playoff games with three teams over nine seasons. He would play three seasons in Washington, his 213 regular season games played being the second highest total for any team with whom he played in his 13-year career.
For his first two seasons with the Caps, Sacco was a serviceable, if unspectacular bottom-six forward (14-23-37, plus-11 in 148 games); however, he failed to record a postseason point in 11 games and more than 125 minutes of ice time. In his third season in Washington, in 2001-02, he did not record a goal in 65 games and was a minus-13 for a club that finished with 85 points and out of the playoffs. Sacco started the following season without a job, but he did sign a professional try-out contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in January and was signed as a free agent to the club two weeks later. He played 34 games with the Flyers in what was his last NHL season.
July 28, 1974: On this date, the Caps acquired Bill Lesuk from Los Angeles for cash. Lesuk was an undrafted, rather diminutive forward whose amateur resume included 109 goals in 233 games for the Weyburn Red Wings of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He was then traded by the Detroit Red Wings in February 1966 (the Wings would play in a Stanley Cup final later that year) to the Boston Bruins (a team that finished 22 games below .500 that season). Didn't look good.
But Boston eventually improved, while the Wings went in the other direction. Lesuk joined the Bruins for five games of the 1968-69 season and even got into a playoff game that year. The next year, he appeared in just three regular season games, but he also appeared in a pair of postseason games for a club that won the Stanley Cup. Not bad... except then he was moved again, claimed under something called an "intraleague draft" by the Philadelphia Flyers. Lesuk actually did well there, scoring 17 goals in his first season with the club. Alas, the next season he was on his way again, traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
A month later he was drafted by the Alberta entry in the WHA. For a fellow no one seems to have heard of, he was pretty popular. He played parts of three seasons with the Kings (never for Alberta, it turned out), and then he was sent to the Caps in a cash deal to play for a club embarking on their inaugural season. Lesuk started off fine, recording an assist in the Caps' first home game in franchise history (the only goal in a 1-1 tie against his former Kings club). He played 79 games for the Caps in that inaugural season, going 8-11-19 and a respectable (for that club, trust us) minus-34. But that would be his only year with the Caps. Lesuk moved on to join the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA the following season and was with the club when the joined the NHL in 1979-80 in what would be his last year in major pro hockey.
July 28, 2010: In 2010 on this date, the Caps traded ornery for ornery, just moving up in weight class in the exchange, acquiring D.J. King from the St. Louis Blues for Stefan Della Rovere. In King, the Caps got a bigger (6'3"/230 to 5'11"/205), older (26 years old to 20), and more ornery (185 penalty minutes in the NHL; della Rovere had yet to debut in the NHL) player. What the Caps didn't get in the bargain was "more durable." He had already suffered significant shoulder and finger injuries with the Blues that limited him to 13 games over his last two seasons there. His career never really got off the ground with the Caps.
He suffered a bone bruise early in the 2010-11 season and had a hard time getting back into the lineup once it healed. He played only 16 games for the Caps all season. The following season he appeared in just one game for Washington and 29 with the AHL Hershey Bears. After appearing in four postseason games with the Bears, his tenure with the organization was at an end. In 17 total games with the Caps he had no goals, two assists, and 30 penalty minutes while averaging less than six minutes of ice time a game.
July 29, 1974: The Caps made one deal on this date before the franchise played its first game and has not had one on this date since, acquiring center Andre Peloffy from the New York Rangers for cash (cash deals seemed to be a common thing back then). Stop us if you've heard this before... player drafted in a late round cannot crack the parent club roster, is moved to expansion team for cash. Such was the case with Peloffy, who was a tenth-round pick of the Rangers in 1971 (that was a 111th overall pick back then). He made it as far as the Providence Reds of the AHL, but could advance no further up the career ladder.
When the Rangers sent Peloffy to the expansion Caps, he had what looked like an easier climb to the NHL. Sure enough, in the Caps inaugural season of 1974-75, one in which the team would dress a total of 36 skaters over the course of the season, Peloffy appeared in nine games. Unfortunately, he was among four of those 36 skaters who did not record a point, leading that group in games played. It would be Peloffy's only NHL experience. After playing in 146 games in the AHL over the next two seasons, Peloffy signed as a free agent with the New England Whalers, where he wrapped up his career in major pro hockey with ten games in the 1977-78 season.
July 30, 2013: Maybe it was his size (6'3"/190), or the fact that he played for four years at Clarkson University, or thatt he played a season for the Reading Royals of the ECHL in which he had three goals and nine points in 49 games. Whatever it was, the Caps saw something in center Julien Cayer, who the Caps signed on this date in 2013. Their eyes might have been playing tricks on them, though. Caver played one more season with the Royals, going 6-8-14 in 34 games in what would be his last pro season.
July 31, 1991: The last day of the week and the month looks like a number of others in this last week in July history, a player for cash deal. In this instance, the conditions were reversed, the Caps trading Robin Bawa to Vancouver for cash on this date in 1991 Bawa had come to the Caps as an undrafted free agent in 1987, and he would dress for five games with the Caps in the 1989-1990 season. He did record his first NHL goal with the Caps, turning on the red light in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on October 7, 1989. After the Caps sent him to the Canucks for cash in 1991, he played in two games for Vancouver in the following season before moving to the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Mighty Ducks to round out his NHL career.
The last week of July was certainly no fountain of bubbling activity for the Washington Capitals over the years...but then again, how many of us are bubbling fountains of activity every week in the summer?