LANDOVER -- In the minutes before the Washington Capitals' first turn in the NHL draft, general manager David Poile conferred animatedly with the officials of other teams.
Clearly, something was up.
Something was. In a swirl of dealing on the floor of the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center last night, the Capitals traded their No. 16 choice and Mike Ridley to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Leafs' No. 10 (acquired from the Quebec Nordiques) and Rob Pearson. It was an intricate three-way deal that also included an exchange of players by Toronto and Quebec.
The Capitals felt they got the edge because Ridley is almost 31 and plays a position, center, where the team is deep. Pearson, 23, is a right wing, where the Capitals need buttressing.
Pearson had 12 goals and 18 assists last season for the Maple Leafs after a 23-goal 1992-93 season in which he led Toronto with 211 penalty minutes. Pearson was a first-round selection in the 1989 draft.
"The last week or so, we've been talking to lots of people," said lTC Poile. "But the deal came together on the floor. Ridley's been good for a lot of years, but it's time to give young players more opportunities."
Ridley spent eight seasons with the Capitals and is second on the team's all-time goal scoring list with 218 and third in points (547). Last season Ridley was second on the team in goals with 26.
"Mike was solid on and off the ice since he came to the club in 1987," Poile said. "His contributions were most significant."
The Capitals used the No. 10 pick to draft Nolan Baumgartner, a defenseman from Calgary who played last season for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.
Baumgartner, 18, is a 6-foot-1, 187-pounder nicknamed "Bomber," a play on his last name. He had 13 goals and 42 assists in 69 games last season for the Blazers and finished ninth in scoring among WHL defensemen, recording five power-play goals.
"Our scouts raved about him," Poile said. "He was ranked second among defensemen in the draft. He has all the ability in the world. We project him as a solid NHL defenseman."
Noting Baumgartner's "exceptional understanding of the game," Blazers coach Don Hay added, "He's a good passer, an offensive threat in many ways as well as a difficult player to beat defensively."
Said Baumgartner from Hartford: "It feels great that the Capitals traded up for me. I had no clue they would. I'm still floating on Cloud 9."
In keeping with Hay's analysis, Baumgartner fancies himself as an all-around player.
"I pride myself on my defense," he said. "But I'm also an offensive player. I pick spots and jump on the play. I'd like to think I can also bring a little more leadership to a team that already has a lot."
With their other first round pick, 15th overall, the Capitals selected left wing Alexander Kharlamov, 18, a 5-10, 180-pounder from Moscow. He was third in scoring with eight goals and eight assists in 44 games last season for Central Red Army, which finished last in Russia's Western Division.
Kharlamov is the son of the legendary Red Army player, Valeri Kharlamov, who was killed in a car accident in 1981. Alexander wears No. 17 in honor of his father.
"I do believe in genes," Poile said dryly. "Alexander has a lot of drive and determination.
With their only second-round pick, 41st overall, the Capitals chose left wing Scott Cherrey of the North Bay Centennials of the Ontario Hockey League. Cherrey, 18, of Drayton, Ontario, made the OHL's all-rookie second team after collecting 41 points, including 15 goals.