Caps get new point man in Juneau

March 24, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

When Washington general manager David Poile welcomed center Joe Juneau to the Capitals, he didn't do a slow ice dance. Poile told the former Boston Bruin exactly what he wanted from him.

"I told him, 'You've been a good player behind three top players in Boston,' " Poile said. "I told him, 'We do not have a top forward, an explosive forward to lead our offense, and this is a great opportunity for you to do that.' "

Some players may have shied. Juneau's face lighted up.

"It made me feel great," he said. "And I'm very excited. I'm here to work. I hope I continue what happened [Tuesday]. It's exactly what I'm shooting for: to make plays and to score when I get those chances. There is great potential on this team, and I hope I can make the team better."

Juneau arrived Tuesday, after a trade that sent defenseman Al Iafrate to the Bruins. Today, Juneau is back in Boston, packing up his newly remodeled house and making arrangements for his girlfriend, Darlene, and his two huskies, Utah and Cannelle (Cinnamon in English), to move into the house the Capitals have located for him near Piney Orchard.

Tomorrow, he'll rejoin the team in Detroit for the 7:30 p.m. game with the Red Wings.

Juneau, from Pont Rouge, Quebec, left the small, French-speaking town to attend Rensselaer

Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He did not speak English, but taught himself the language while living with a multilingual family and playing Trivial Pursuit.

He is a quick study.

In and out of RPI with a degree in aeronautical engineering in three years, it was on to the 1992 Canadian Olympic hockey team. In the Olympics he outgunned teammate Eric Lindros, leading the silver-medal-winning team with six goals and nine assists, before joining the Bruins for 14 regular-season games and 15 playoff games that same year. He scored nine goals and had 22 assists to help the Bruins to the Wales Conference final. The next year, his NHL rookie season, he accumulated 102 points.

Tuesday, in his first game with Washington, without a practice with his new teammates, Juneau produced one goal and two assists.

"He came in and made a big contribution in Boston right away, too," recalled Capitals center Dave Poulin, who was Juneau's teammate in 1991-92 and 1992-93. "He was a big part of our playoff run. And then, last year, he scored 102 points. You don't just say, 'Oh, well, 102 points, that's great.' Half the guys in the world don't get 100 points in a career."

The only foreseeable problem with Juneau is his contract status. The 26-year-old makes $250,000

a season and will be in his option year next season. He is not known for his shyness, and the Boston newspapers had been speculating that Juneau would be traded because the Bruins feared his salary demands would go through the roof. The Bruins have four players making more than $1 million a year.

"What that tells me, is that he must be a really good player," said Poile. "I know he's signed for this year and has an option year. In the off-season, I'll sit down with his agent and see where we are."

But if Juneau does all the things the Capitals are hoping he can do, Poile indicated money may not be a problem. After all, Iafrate was making $900,000.

One of the strange twists in this trade is that when the Capitals sent Iafrate to Boston, they sent their most flamboyant player, known nearly as well for riding his Harley-Davidson as for shooting a puck at world-record speeds.

In return, they get Juneau, who is a pilot and flies his own Land-Amphibian aircraft.

Poile says he had no problem with Iafrate's motorcycles and is equally unconcerned with Juneau's plane.

"It means the guy has other interests besides hockey," said Poile. "I think that's good. The fun part of this game is seeing how all these players, with their different interests and personalities, interact."

As to whether Poile is willing to take a ride with Juneau in his plane, well, Poile said he is willing to make a deal.

"If Joe Juneau takes us to the Stanley Cup, he can fly me there," Poile said. "I'm more than willing to make that deal."

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