Sunday, July 15, 2018

So, What Happened on This Date?... July 16

So… what did happen on July 16th in Washington Capitals history?  It was a famous day, as it turns out. 

1990 – “Scott Stevens career with the Washington Capitals is over.”

That was the headline in a Washington Post story on July 13, 1990 announcing that the Washington Capitals would not match a four-year/$5.1 million offer sheet tendered to the restricted free agent defenseman.  By today’s standards, even with inflation (the total deal was for $9.86 million in 2018 dollars, an “AAV” of $2.465 million per year).  But in 1990, it was a big deal.  Consider that Wayne Gretzky, still perhaps the best player of the era, had just completed a season in which he earned $1,720,000 (source:

The Caps gave up an all-star caliber blueliner – he was on the first-team All-Rookie team in 1982-1983, appeared in two All-Star Games with the Caps, and was named to the All Star first team once (1987-1988) – for five first round picks.  The Caps later that same day made a trade of some note.  The club, with Stevens about to depart, obtained defenseman Mike Lalor and forward Peter Zezel from St. Louis for Geoff Courtnall.  Lalor played in 132 regular season and 10 postseason games for the Caps before being traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Paul McDiarmid in March 1992.  Zezel played 20 games for Washington before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs with defenseman Bob Rouse for defenseman Al Iafrate in January 1991.

Stevens went on to complete a Hall of Fame career, spending one season with the Blues and then, in another uncommon personnel move, was transferred to the New Jersey Devils as compensation for the Blues signing forward Brendan Shanahan.  Stevens spent 13 seasons with the Devils, with whom he played in ten All-Star games, was named a first-team all-star once, won three Stanley Cups, was awarded a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but never won a Norris Trophy as outstanding defenseman.

Stevens had another legacy with the Caps.  The five first round picks the Caps were awarded in compensation were the first fruit of a productive tree, making Stevens, who was the fifth overall pick of the 1982 entry draft, the most productive draft pick in Capitals history.  Stevens was signed by the Blues on this date in 1990 to complete the deal and officially end Stevens' career in Washington.

1999 – The Caps Get a Backup Goalie

The 1998-1999 season was one in which injuries figured importantly.  No skater appeared in all 82 games (Ken Klee dressed for 78 games), only ten skaters dressed for more than 60 games, and the Caps employed 37 skaters in all.  Four goalies dressed for the Caps that season, and once the team had to give top netminder Olaf Kolzig a break, things went south.  The other three goalies – Rick Tabaracci, Mike Rosati, and Martin Brochu – combined for 26 appearances, going 5-14-3, 2.55, .906, with two shutouts (both by Tabaracci).  No goalie other than Kolzig won a game after March 20th that season, but the Caps won only two of their last 13 games.

Tabaracci was a free agent after that season (he would be signed by the Atlanta Thrashers the following November), and neither Brochu nor Rosati appeared to be in the Caps’ plans as a backup for Kolzig (as it turned out, Rosati appeared in one game for the Caps, his only career NHL game, and Brochu only played in seven more NHL games with Vancouver and Pittsburgh over the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons; he never won an NHL game in nine appearances).   

What the Caps needed was a proven, reliable backup, a professional who understood his role and could fill it consistently.  On this date in 1999 they settled on a 32-year old veteran of 11 seasons with four teams.  Craig Billington was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche for future considerations on this date in 1999.  He played four seasons with the Caps, appearing in 47 games, going 11-19-7, 2.95, .894, with two shutouts.  But he might be best known for a moment when he wasn’t in the game, when in a contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins, things got tense, and Billington made his contribution by mocking Penguin goalie Johan “Moose” Hedberg… 

2015 – The Caps Sign a Pair

July 2015 was a busy month for the Caps.  A very busy month.  There were seven transactions on July 1st, a day topped  by the signing of free agent Justin Williams, but including signings of Taylor Chorney, Stan Galiev, and Aaron Ness, among others.  The following day, the Caps traded Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley, and a draft pick to the St. Louis Blues for T.J. Oshie, and they signed Chris Bourque.  A few days later, they signed Evgeny Kuznetsov to a new contract.

One wondered if the Caps had any more activity left after that first week in July 2015.  They did, although the next round of it was of a comparatively minor variety.  Zach Sill had stops in Pittsburgh and Toronto before joining the Caps organization.  That leg of the journey, from the Penguins to the Maple Leafs in February 2015, was part of a trade that would also involve future Capital Daniel Winnik.  But when the season was over, Sill was a free agent.  He signed a one-year/two-way deal with the Caps for $575,000 ($287,500 in AHL salary) on this date in 2015.  He played ten games for the Caps in the 2015-2016 season (1-0-1, plus-2) and then signed a two-year/$1,225,000 contract with the Caps in June 2016.  He did not see action with the Caps in either the 2016-2017 or 2017-2018 seasons.  He is currently an unrestricted free agent.

The Caps also had the matter of Chris Brown on their to-do list.  Brown was a minor player in the Martin Erat saga, coming to the Caps with Rostislav Klesla and a draft pick for Erat and John Mitchell in March 2014. Over the remainder of the 2013-2014 season and the 2014-2015 season, Brown dressed for 11 games with the Caps, posting one goal and a plus-1.  It was enough for the Caps to agree to a two-year/$1,150,000 contract with Brown on this date in 2015.  He appeared in one game in the 2015-2016 season before he was traded to the New York Rangers for Ryan Bourque.  He did not play for the Rangers, and when he became a free agent, he signed with the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers Nürnberg of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

In other July 16th news, it was on this date… in 1790 that the District of Columbia was established as the capital of the United States under the Residence Act of 1790… in 1862 that David Farragut was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, the first officer in the United States Navy to hold admiral rank… in 1935 that the first parking meter was installed (in Oklahoma City, OK)… in 1941 that Joe DiMaggio his safely in his 56th consecutive game, the last game of his record streak… in 1945 that a plutonium-based weapon was detonated at Alamogordo, NM, the first successful detonation of a nuclear weapon… in 1969 that Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center, beginning what would be the first successful moon landing mission… in 1967 that Will Ferrell was born (cue the cowbell)…

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