Thursday, July 12, 2018

So, What Happened on This Date?... July 12

We're getting to the end of the postseason reviews and edging toward the lazy days of hockey summer.  Not that every day in the summer over four-plus decades has been hammocks and hot dogs for the Washington Capitals.  Sometimes, they did some personnel adjustment.  From time to time (read: as we remember to do it), we'll take a look at what happened on this date in history.

July 12...

1995 – John Slaney was traded.

Darryl Sydor and Derian Hatcher.  Those were the two defensemen taken ahead of John Slaney, by the Washington Capitals, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 entry draft.  There would be 17 defensemen in that draft who would appear in more NHL games than Slaney did in the NHL.  Of the 268 NHL games he did play, only 63 of them came with the Caps.  He reached the NHL as a rookie in the 1993-1994 season, appearing in 47 games and going a very respectable 7-9-16, plus-3.  The 16 points was sixth-most among rookie defensemen that season; his seven goals tied Boris Mironov (whose brother, Dmitri, would play for the Caps, as we shall see shortly) for the league lead among that group.  He appeared in all 11 postseason games for the Caps, often matched against the Mario Lemieux line in the first round win in six games over the formidable champion Penguins and skating in all five games in the second round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the New York Rangers.

The following season was a frustrating one for hockey, the Caps, and Slaney.  That was the season in which the NHL delayed opening until January 1995 due to a labor-management dispute.  Slaney appeared in only 16 games for the Caps in the regular season, going 0-3-3, minus 3.  He did not dress for any of the games in the seven-game loss to the Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs.

After becoming something of a legend as an amateur in Canada, and after becoming a top-ten draft pick in the NHL, John Slaney never quite reached those heights again, and he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on this date in 1995 for a third-round pick in the 1996 draft.  That pick would become Shawn McNeill, who would never play a game in the NHL, but he did have a long career in minor league hockey in North America and Europe, eventually hanging up his skates after the 2014-2015 season with the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

The odd thing about Slaney’s side of that trade was that he would be another six seasons before he would don a Flyers sweater in the NHL.  He was traded in December 1995 to Colorado without having played a game for Philadelphia.  His hockey journey took him to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, and Pittsburgh, before he landed back in Philadelphia in January 2001 in a trade from Pittsburgh for Kevin Stevens.  Slaney played in five regular season and one postseason game for the Flyers before his NHL career ended after the 2001-2002 season.  He went on to play another nine seasons in the AHL and in Europe.  Slaney remained in hockey, eventually serving as an assistant coach with the Arizona Coyotes.  He is currently an assistant with the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL.

1998 – Dmitri Mironov was signed.

On June 16, 1998, the Detroit Red Wings completed their Stanley Cup final sweep of the Washington Capitals.  Defenseman Dmitri Mironov, obtained by the Red Wings from the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Jamie Pushor late in the season, looked on from the press box.  It was the 11th straight game he did not get a sweater in the postseason, not since May 17th in a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of their second round matchup.  That matchup had a harrowing moment involving Mironov, who in Game 2 of that series fired a shot that hit Blues defenseman Chris Pronger in the chest, who took two steps and dropped to the ice.  Pronger was struck just to the left of his heart, causing it to lose rhythm, but he recovered and went on to play in the series

As for Mironov, not quite four weeks after his Red Wings swept the Caps in the Cup final, he was a Capital, signing a four-year/$11.5 million contract as an unrestricted free agent.  Mironov came to the Caps with considerable experience – seven years in the Soviet Union and another seven in the NHL with four different teams (Toronto and Pittsburgh in addition to Anaheim and Detroit).  Of course, that meant he had some miles on him, too.  He arrived in Washington as a 32-year old defenseman, the second-oldest defenseman to start on Opening Night of the 1998-1999 season against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. 

Mironov, like a lot of Capitals that season, missed a lot of games (a total of 14 defensemen would dress for the Caps, none of them playing in all 82 games). He appeared in only 46 games in that first season in Washington, going 2-14-16, minus-5, for a club that went 31-45-6 and missed the postseason entirely a year after going to the Cup final. 

The Caps and Mironov reached the postseason the following year, but after going 3-19-22, plus-7, in 73 games in the regular season, Mironov failed to record a point in four postseason games (he did not play in Game 1 of the opening round series against Pittsburgh that the Caps lost in five games).  The 200-2001 season would be Mironov’s last with Washington.  He appeared in only 36 regular season games with the Caps (3-5-8, minus-7), suffering a back injury that would keep him out of the last half of the 2000-2001 season and all of the following season.  For a former All Star Game participant (1998 with Anaheim), it was a disappointing end in a disappointing tenure for Dmitri Mironov in Washington.  He did not play in the NHL again.

1996 – Daniel Laperriere was signed.

Not every signing is a big one.  Sometimes, they get the small print in the team’s media guide.  Such was the case with Daniel Laperriere, a four-year veteran signed by the Caps on this date in 1996.  Laperriere was a fifth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 1989 entry draft, taken just ahead of James Black.  Laperriere never dressed for the Caps, in fact never played in the NHL after being signed by the Caps.  He did play in the IHL, AHL, and in Europe from the time of that signing through the 1999-2000 season with the Schwenninger Wild Wings in Germany.

James Black would eventually play in 166 regular season games with the Caps from 1998-1999 through 2000-2001.

2006 – Richard Zednik was a Capital…again.

Rcihard Zednik was a 10th-round (when there was such a thing) pick, 249th overall, in the 1994 entry draft.  After playing another year in Europe, he joined the Caps as a rookie in the 1995-1996 season.  Well, for one game of it, the season finale against the Buffalo Sabres, a 3-2 Caps loss in which Zednik had a pristine score sheet.

By the time he was traded away late in the 2000-2001 season, Zednik established himself as something of a fan favorite, if a player who never quite filled the scorer’s role he seemed suited for.  That late season trade in 2001 was among the biggest and most controversial in Capitals history, even today.  As we wrote at the time…
“The Caps were pulling away in the Southeast Division race with a 37-20-10-2 record, 15 points ahead of Carolina in the division.  There was the question, though, whether the team was configured for a deep playoff run.  The Caps opted to add experience and pulled the trigger on a trade with the Montreal Canadiens, sending Zednik, another youngster, Jan Bulis, and a first round pick in the 2001 entry draft to Montreal for Trevor Linden, Dainius Zubrus, and a second round pick int he2001 draft.

For the Caps, the trade simply did not work.  They stumbled to a 4-7-0-2 finish and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.“

If the trade did not work for the Capitals, it did seem to work for Zednik in Montreal.  In parts of five seasons with the Canadiens, he appeared in 322 games and scored 98 goals (his highest with any of the four franchise for which he would play) and posted 183 points (also a high for one club).  However, in 2006-2007 he slipped under 20 goals for the first time in five full seasons with the Habs and appeared in only 67 games, the first time in those four full seasons he played in fewer than 80 games. 

Following that season, he was traded back to the Caps, for a third-round draft pick (Olivier Fortier, taken with that pick by Montreal, never played in the NHL and was out of hockey after the 2012-2013 season after four seasons in the AHL).  Zednik lasted just 32 games with the Caps in his second tour with the club, traded to the New York Islanders in February 2007 for a second round pick in the 2007 draft.  That was perhaps a more consequential trade for the Caps than the one that sent Zednik to Montreal in 2001.  That second round pick became Theo Ruth, who would later be traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Sergei Federov.  Federov went on to become a Caps legend, if only for this moment, while Ruth never played NHL hockey and retired from the sport mid-way through the 2013-2014 season with the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL at the age of 24.

Zednik signed with the Florida Panthers, for whom he played two seasons and surviving one of the most dangerous moments a hockey player can face (warning: this is difficult to watch).  But he did return to the ice the following season, 2008-2009, which would be his last in the NHL.  Zednik went on to play two more seasons in Europe and represented Slovakia in the 2010 Olympic Games before retiring.

Only one player among the 286 players taken in that 1994 entry draft played in more NHL games than Richard Zednik.  Tomas Holmstrom, taken eight picks later by the Detroit Red Wings, played in 1,026 regular season games, all with the Wings, with whom he won four Stanley Cups, including one against the Caps in 1998.

2016 – Zach Sanford is signed.

Andre Burakovsky, Madison Bowey, Zach Sanford.  Those were the Washington Capitals’ first three picks of the 2013 entry draft, taken in the first, second, and second rounds, respectively.  Sanford paid a conventional volume of dues in his climb to the NHL.  After the 2013 draft he spent another year in amateur hockey (Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL).  Then there were two seasons with Boston College in the NCAA.

It was after that second season with the BC Eagles, on this date, that the Caps signed Sanford to a three-year, entry level contract paying him $875,000 a year in salary and another $50,000 a year in performance bonuses (numbers from   In the first year of that deal, Sanford split time over the first two thirds of the season between the Hershey Bears in the AHL and the Caps, for whom he appeared in 26 games, going 2-1-3, even. 

However, that 2016-2017 season was one in which the Caps loaded up for a Stanley Cup run, and the future, to a degree, was put on hold in service to the here and now.  Sanford was traded to the St. Louis Blues on February 27, 2017, along with forward Brad Malone, a first-round pick in the 2017 entry draft, and a conditional second round to as low as a seventh round pick in the 2019 draft, depending on the conditions met, for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (widely viewed as the prize of the trading deadline) and goaltender Pheonix Copley.

That first-round pick going to St. Louis acquired a life of its own.  St. Louis traded the pick to the Philadelphia Flyers along with Jori Lehtera and a conditional first round pick in 2017 or 2018 for Brayden Schenn.  As for Sanford, he played in 13 games for the Blues to wrap up the 2016-2017 season, going 2-3-5, plus-2.  However, in training camp to prepare for the 2017-2018 season, Sanford suffered a shoulder injury that wiped out his season. 

Oh, and in other July 12 highlights… The iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was consecrated on this date in 1561… Alexander Hamilton died on this date in 1804, one day after being shot by Aaron Burr in a duel… the U.S. Congress authorized the “Medal of Honor” on this date in 1862… and the Rolling Stones had their first live performance on this date in 1962, at the Marquee Club in London.

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