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.
Nobody likes August. There aren't any national holidays, it lasts too long, and as one writer put it, it is "the Mississippi of the calendar. It's beastly hot and muggy. It has a dismal history. Nothing good ever happens in it. And the United States would be better off without it."
Hockey doesn't seem to like August, either, at least insofar as the history of the Washington Capitals is concerned. Looking at the first week of the month, you get the feeling this is where the front office bugs out for the summer.
August 1, 2001: The Caps signed forward Peter Ferraro. By the time Ferraro joined the Caps, he'd been around the block several times. Once a first-round draft pick (24th overall in 1992) of the New York Rangers, he spent three years climbing to the NHL, first by wrapping up his career with the University of Maine, then with the Atlanta Knights of the IHL and the Binghamton Rangers of the AHL for the 1994-95 season. He finally made it to the NHL in the 1995-96 season, but it was only for five games.
As it was, he would play only eight games for the Rangers over parts of three seasons before being waived and claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in October 1997, who then waived him three months later. He played 29 games with the Penguins to complete the 1997-98 season, but then he hit the road again, signing as a free agent with the Boston Bruins in August 1998. A year later, Ferraro was claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 expansion draft, then traded immediately back to Boston for Randy Robitaille.
It was with the Capitals that he made his last NHL appearances, playing in four games of the 2001-02 season. He recorded his only point with the Caps in the only home game in which he played, a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens... a fact no-doubt overlooked by the fact that on that date, Jaromir Jagr, obtained from the Penguins in a trade over the summer, signed a five-year contract extension with the Caps. After another year in the Caps' system with the Portland Pirates, Ferraro signed with the Coyotes as a free agent. He also had tours in Europe, then with the New York Islanders.
August 2, 2004: When the Capitals signed defenseman Jeff Paul, they were getting a player with a certain style... if cantankerousness counts as a style. A former second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, Paul compiled405 penalty minutes in 213 games in Canadian junior, 330 penalty minutes in 124 games in the IHL, and 711 penalty minutes in 247 games in the AHL. The cherry on that sundae was being charged with seven penalty minutes in two games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2002-03. Oddly enough, that didn't lead to him getting a spot on the Caps upon his arrival. In his only year in the organization, he went 1-2-3, minus-13, with the Portland Pirates in the AHL. A year later he signed with the Montreal Canadiens as a free agent, but he would not dress with the Habs in his last NHL posting.
August 3, 1993: Dave Poulin is one of those players for whom, when his name comes up in conversation, someone will say, "hey, I remember that guy." An undrafted free agent signed by the Philadelphia Flyers after he spent four years at the University of Notre Dame, Poulin was a solid two-way player for parts of eight seasons with the Flyers, with 161 goals and 394 points in 467 games while earning votes for the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward in five of the six full seasons in which he played for Philadelphia. He was traded to the Boston Bruins mid-way through the 1989-90 season for forward Ken Linseman, and in three and a half seasons with the Bruins, he continued to display that two-way game, going 34-68-102 in 165 games and finishing second in the Selke voting in 1992-93).
Poulin came to Washington as a free agent at the tail end of his career, and was never able to duplicate the scoring output from his years in Philadelphia and Boston, scoring just ten goals and recording 34 points in 92 games over two seasons. He added two goals and four points in 13 postseason games with the Caps before retiring after the 1994-95 season.
August 4, 1982: The Caps acquired Robbie Moore and a 11th round pick in the 1983 Entry Draft from the Minnesota North Stars for Wes Jarvis and Rollie Boutin. This trade might go down in NHL history as a trade for the lowest combined height of goalies. The outgoing Boutin at 5'9" almost towered over the incoming Moore at 5'5".
It was not a trade that would work out for either goaltender. Boutin never dressed for the Canadiens, and Moore ended up dressing for just one game as a Capital, allowing one goal in the third period of a 6-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers - Moore's previous employer - in October 1982. As a footnote to this deal, the other outgoing player - Wes Jarvis - did not fare so well after leaving Washington, either. After appearing in 144 games over three years with the Caps, he ended up playing in just 93 games over his last five seasons in the league with three teams (Minnesota, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Toronto Maple Leafs).
August 4, 2005: The Caps acquired Chris Clark and a 7th round choice in the 2007 Entry Draft from the Calgary Flames for a 7th round choice in the 2006 Entry Draft and a 6th round choice in the 2007 Entry Draft. The Caps were in the midst of their Great Rebuild, and getting credible veteran leadership could only help in that regard, especially since the Caps were about to introduce their prize of the 2004 entry draft, Alex Ovechkin, to the NHL. Clark had a Stanley Cup final appearance on his resume as part of the 2003-04 Flames, and 278 career regular season games under his belt. In his first year with the Caps, Clark posted a career high 20 goals, equaling his total of his previous two seasons. The following season he was named Captain and recorded 30 goals, equaling his total from his last three seasons in Calgary.
Clark was able to bring the Caps to the promised land of the playoffs as captain, but his output deteriorated quite a bit after his 30-goal season. He managed just five goals in 18 games in 2007-08, the year the Caps returned to the postseason, but he was hampered for most of the season with a recurring groin injury (he did not play in the postseason). The following season he had just one goal in 32 games and another in eight playoff games, another season plagued by injury, this time to his wrist. In 2009-10 he seemed to regain a measure of health, but his output did not return. After four goals in 38 games, he was traded with defenseman Milan Jurcina for forward Jason Chimera.
What Clark might be best remembered for, though, was what happened late in an early-season game against the Boston Bruins in 2006. Clark took a puck to the mouth that cost him two teeth and crushed his palate bone in the roof of his mouth, but he managed to finish his shift, in and of itself rather amazing. Some dental work and a cadaver bone later, Clark missed just one week before returning to the lineup. If captains lead by example, it would be hard to find a better one of playing through injury.
August 5, 1993: On this date in 1993 the Caps signed Todd Nelson as a free agent. Once a fourth round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nelson had just one game of NHL experience before arriving in Washington. He barely saw any more action, appearing in two games for the Caps in the 1993-1994 season. However, his one appearance at home was memorable. In what was his first game with the Caps, Nelson's goal in a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets was his first (and only) NHL goal, the game-winner, and the goal that clinched a playoff spot for the Caps in the 1994 postseason. Nelson would not play in the NHL again after the 1993-1994 season, but he did continue his career in the IHL, AHL, and in Europe before ending his career with the Muskegon Fury of the UHL in 2001-2002.
August 6, 1985: It would have been reasonable to think that left winger Grant Martin, a tenth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 1980, would never make the long hard climb to the NHL. Not a lot of tenth-rounders do it. Martin did, though, reaching the show in 1983-84 with the Canucks. He played in just 24 games over two seasons in Vancouver, recording three points, all assists. Two years with the Caps did not greatly expand on Martin's numbers, as he recorded just a single point - also an assist - in 20 games over those two years. He left the organization after the 1986-87 season, but did go on to play another 11 seasons in the AHL and Europe.
August 7, 1984: The Cap signed free agent defenseman Mike McEwen, who was making his fifth NHL stop in what would be a 12-season NHL career. You could say that McEwen was a defenseman of the offensive variety, having recorded 84 goals and 325 points in 548 games with four clubs before joining the Caps. He also had three Stanley Cups on his resume, all with the New York Islanders in 1981-83. McEwen appeared in 56 regular season games (11-27-38) with the Caps in the 1984-85 season, finishing only behind Scott Stevens and Larry Murphy in scoring among defensemen, and added an assist in five postseason games. The following August he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings. In all, the well-traveled McEwen ended up playing for seven clubs over 12 seasons in the NHL.
Seven days, eight deals. Not exactly a week in which the phone lines were burned up in Caps history. But everyone needs a break, even the folks who work in NHL front offices. And what better week than the first week of August, leading off as it does "National Family Fun Month."