As the dog days of summer continue, here's a look at some things that have happened this week in franchise history.
We saw that the first week of August was not one of intense activity for the Washington Capitals. It turns out that the second week was hardly different. And even with the light load, the biggest share of activity came in a single season. But let's look at it day by day...
August 8, 2005: This was a two-fer date for the Caps, who signed Ben Clymer and Miroslav Zalesak on this date in 2005. These were the first of a wave of acquisitions during this week in 2005. The Caps, who were in the midst of tearing down the club to the foundation and rebuilding it, might have been looking at adding some veteran leadership to help bring what would be a young club along in its development. Forward Ben Clymer fit that bill. Clymer himself was not that old, just 27 years old when the Caps signed him (only 13 of 37 skaters in the 2005-06 season would be older), but he was a five-year veteran of the Tampa Bay Lightning with 295 games of NHL regular season experience and another 16 games - and a Stanley Cup - in the postseason.
In his first year with the Caps, the first year the league resumed play after the 2004-05 lockout, Clymer set a personal best with 16 goals and added 17 assists in 77 games. He slumped quite a bit the following season, going 7-13-20 in 66 games and missing a good portion of the latter stages of the season with a sports hernia. He would not return to the Caps, spending the following year with the Hershey Bears in the AHL before heading to Europe for the final two years of his pro career.
Even for a club trying to regain a competitive place in the league, the signing of Zalesak had to be considered nothing more than a depth signing. A former fourth round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks (1998), he had just 12 games of NHL experience with San Jose over two seasons when he was signed by the Caps. He had some success in the AHL, scoring 98 goals in 256 games over four seasons at that level, and the hope was that on a team likely to have little depth, he could find a similar level of success at a higher level. It didn't happen. He failed to make the parent club, and when he was reassigned to the AHL, he invoked a clause in the deal that allowed him to nullify the contract. He returned to Europe and never played in the NHL again.
August 8, 2006: This date was another two-fer for the Caps, signing Timo Helbling and Petr Taticek. In Helbling, the Capitals were adding some size to the defense (6'3"/209), if not experience. The 25-year old, a former sixth-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators, had just nine games of NHL experience, all of them with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2005-06. Cracking the Capitals lineup proved even more difficult. He appeared in just two games for the Caps, skating a total of 24 minutes without recording a point. Most of his time was spent with the Hershey Bears before he was traded, along with Dainius Zubrus, to the Buffalo Sabres for Jiri Novotny and the Sabres' first-round draft pick in 2007.
That first round pick took on a life of its own. The Caps traded that pick to the San Jose Sharks for second round picks in 2007 and 2008. The 2007 second round pick was then sent by the Caps to the Philadelphia Flyers for a third-round pick in 2007 and a second-round pick in 2008. The Caps took Phil DeSimone with the 2007 third rounder, and with the 2008 second rounder took Dmitry Kugryshev. With the 2008 second round pick the Caps got from the Sharks, the Caps took Eric Mestery. Total NHL games played by DeSimone, Kugryshev, and Mestery - zero. If there was ever a noisier trade in Caps history than that involving Timo Helbling that yielded less, please point it out to us.
As for Taticek, he might have come to the Caps out of Central Casting. At 6'3"/195 pounds, he looked like a perfect fit as a center. He was a former ninth-overall draft pick (Florida in 2002) out of the Czech Republic. What could go wrong? As it turned out, he just could not adapt to the North American game. He played just three games for the Panthers (no points) before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. There, he could never crack the parent roster. After signing with the Caps, Taticek played just one game in the organization, that with the Hershey Bears, before leaving the NHL for good. He returned to Europe, where he continues to play with ERC Ingolstadt in Germany.
August 9, 1999: On this date in 1999 the Caps signed defenseman Jamie Huscroft. Actually, Huscroft was quite a story of persistence. He was a ninth-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1985, the 171st of 252 players selected. Only five players taken after him would play in more NHL games. He dressed for 345 of those games before he arrived in Washington, putting together a nine-season career with six different teams. He had two things in common at each of those six stops. One, he did not put up much in the way of points (38 in 345 games, only five of them goals). Two, he knew his way to the penalty box (1,054 penalty minutes in those 345 games). With the Capitals, Huscroft spent much of the 1999-00 season skating with the Portland Pirates affiliate in the AHL.
He did appear in seven games for the Caps that season, averaging a little more than ten minutes a game without recording a point. He did have a moment, though. Being the sort accustomed to the physical side of the game, he recorded his only fighting major with the Caps against the team that drafted him, and he didn't mix it up with a scrubeenie. Former Capitals and future hall of famer Scott Stevens was his partner in what would be his last NHL fight in his last NHL season.
August 10, 2005: The Caps were back to two-fers on this date in 2005, signing defensemen Mathieu Biron and Ivan Majesky. The only way one might have been able to tell them apart was the name and number on the back of their jerseys. Their numbers didn't give much of a hint at differences. Before coming to the Caps, Biron appeared in 201 NHL games, going 8-23-31, minus-58 with three teams over five seasons. Majesky was 7-15-22, minus-25 in 145 games with two teams over two seasons. If there was one difference, there was their respective draft positions.
Majesky might have been considered an overachiever, having reached the NHL as a former late-ninth round draft pick (Florida in 2001). Biron, on the other hand, was a former first-round pick, taken 21st overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1998). Only seven of 27 players taken in the first round that season went on to play fewer NHL games than Biron. Both played one season with the Caps, the 2005-06 season, and for both it would be their last season in the NHL. Biron got the better in the scoring, going 4-9-13 in 52 games. Majesky recorded just one goal and eight assists, but that goal. Not only was it a shorthanded goal (the only one he ever scored in the NHL), but...well, just look for yourself:
August 12, 1979: The first of four deals made on this date in Caps history was signing Tony Cassolato as a free agent in 1979. Cassolato was not drafted by an NHL team, but he did catch the attention of the San Diego Mariners of the WHA, signing as a free agent with that club for their inaugural season in 1976-1977. After one season in Southern California, he headed east to join the Birmingham Bulls WHA franchise. He, and the Bulls, lasted two more seasons in the WHA, and when the Bulls folded after the 1978-79 season, he got his chance in the NHL, signing with the Caps. Signing was one thing, breaking into the lineup was another.
In 1979-80, his first with the Caps, he appeared in just nine games, recording two assists, his first NHL points. The following season he dressed for just two games without recording a point. In his third season, he finally struck paydirt in an NHL uniform, scoring his first (and only) NHL goal in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on January 3, 1982, and earning praise from head coach Bryan Murray. Although he found goals hard to come by in Washington, Cassolato was quite adept at lighting the red light in the AHL. In 276 games over four seasons with the Caps' AHL affiliate in Hershey, he recorded 151 goals, including a league-leading 48 goals in 1980-1981. However, after the 1982-83 season, he left the organization for Europe where he wrapped up his career in 1985.
August 12, 2005: The busiest day of this week in Caps history came in 2005, when the club made three deals.
In the first, the Caps acquired defenseman Bryan Muir from Los Angeles for future considerations. The Capitals was Muir's seventh NHL team in a somewhat odd career. Before arriving in Washington, he played in 181 games over eight seasons with six clubs, only once appearing in more than 50 games in a season, that in 1998-99 when he played for the New Jersey Devils (one game) and the Chicago Blackhawks (53 games).
He shattered that mark in his first season with the Caps, appearing in 72 games in 2005-06. The eight goals he scored that season eclipsed his career total to that point (five), and his 26 points did the same (20 career points prior to that season). Much of his next season was lost to a broken foot, and he appeared in just 26 games in what would be his last season with the Caps. After the 2006-07 season he played a season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, then headed to Europe for the final two years of his career.
In was on this date in 2005 that the Caps also signed a pair of free agents - defenseman Jamie Heward and forward Boyd Kane. Heward was something of a late bloomer, even though he was a first round draft pick in 1989 (Pittsburgh, 16th overall). He did not play his first NHL game until he was 24 years old (with Toronto) and was not a regular in an NHL lineup until he reached the age of 27 with the Nashville Predators in 1998-1999 (63 games).
By the time he reached Washington, Heward was a 34-year old with 239 games in the NHL over six seasons with four clubs. He was a solid, if unspectacular performer for the Caps, recording 11 goals and 44 points in 123 games over two seasons. The 123 games played with the Capitals were the most he played for any of the seven tames that employed his services. Late in the 2006-07 season he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations. He finished up the season with the Kings, then signed with St. Petersburg in the KHL for a year. He returned to the NHL with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2008-09 season, his last in the NHL.
Heward does have some odd trivia moments in his association with the Caps over his career. For instance, as a member of the Lightning, he was traded along with former Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig to the Toronto Maple Leafs and other assets for Richard Petiot. Although Heward started his career in a Toronto uniform, he would not end it in one. He never played for the Leafs after that deal was made (neither did Kolzig). Then there were two of the more gruesome injuries one will see, one of which Heward suffered as a Capital against the Dallas Stars (do not watch if you are squeamish). The other came at the hands of a former Capital teammate, Alex Ovechkin, when Heward was skating for the Lightning.
Boyd Kane's career with the Capitals was far less noteworthy, which is not to say that it is insignificant. Kane is a hockey lifer. Twice drafted, in 1996 by the Pittsburgh Penguins and in 1998 by the New York Rangers, Kane spent five seasons bouncing around the minors before he finally cracked an NHL lineup, that being with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003-04. It would not be until January 2006 that he would get into an NHL lineup again, that being for the Caps.
It was with the Caps that he scored his first NHL point. Hockey gods having a sense of justice about them, he got it against his former Flyers team in Philadephia. Hockey gods being quirky in that way, the Flyers won the game, 5-4. Kane played in five games that season before returning to the Flyers' organization, where he split time between the NHL and AHL before returning to the Caps' organization in 2009. He appeared in three games for the Caps in 2009-2010, his last season in the NHL.
August 13, 1992: As if to put an exclamation point on what is a rather quiet week in Caps history, the Caps traded Steve Weeks to the Ottawa Senators for the ever popular "future considerations," although it was an entirely different set of "future considerations" the Caps had in mind when they signed him just two months before as a free agent. The Caps signed Weeks on June 16th after the league denied the Capitals permission to sign former Capital goalie Bernie Wolfe to make him available in the upcoming expansion draft (Wolfe was 40 years old at the time).
We should note at this point that the last time Weeks appeared in more than 40 games in a season before becoming a Cap was in 1981-82 with the New York Rangers, and he appeared in more than 30 games just one other time (1988-89 with the Vancouver Canucks). The Caps made Weeks available in the expansion draft, but neither the Tampa Bay Lightning nor the Senators picked him (four other goalies were selected). The hockey gods being borderline psychotic, the Senators got their man as a result of the deal with the Caps in August, but he never won a game with Ottawa, going 0-5-0, 7.23, .792.
The motto of that last deal might be "be careful what you wish for...in hockey...in August."