Still no deal for Caps and their top pick of '93

January 17, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

For the third time since making defenseman Brendan Witt their No. 1 draft choice in 1993, the Washington Capitals find themselves unable to reach a deal that would get the 19-year-old suited up for the regular season.

Yesterday, Witt's agent, Mark Hall, turned down a four-year contract offer of $3.3 million plus performance bonuses.

The Capitals say Witt's salary, which would average $900,000 when a $720,000 signing bonus was pro-rated over the four years of the deal, would be one of the 10 highest contracts, in terms of salary per year, ever offered to a rookie.

The offer that was turned down yesterday was the same one that was on the table in September. But the deal is worth $421,463 less now because it was pro-rated for the 36 games lost in the 104-day lockout.

"This is the most bizarre negotiations I've ever been in," said Washington general manager David Poile. "We have tried to take the high road here. We have not talked to Brendan or his parents. We have tried to negotiate with his agent and hope that he has taken our words to Brendan.

"But at this point, I believe all this is Mark Hall. I think there is possible malpractice that could be involved in this situation.

"Mark Hall has consistently told me Brendan wants to play for the Washington Capitals and does not want to be traded. But I've never been further away from making a deal."

Poile was frustrated enough yesterday to open his file on Witt, revealing a letter to Hall dated Jan. 13, that stated he would do just that if an agreement was not reached by noon yesterday.

According to Poile, Hall had been asking for $8.4 million over four years, plus bonuses. Despite being informed that the Capitals were turning down that proposal Aug. 31, Poile said Hall did not change his demands until 11:30 yesterday morning, "when he dropped them to $2 million" a year.

"That would make [Witt] the highest-paid player on the Capitals," Poile said. "There is no logic, no basis of comparison, and Hall will not answer any questions about Brendan's options. I'm concerned he's ruining a player's career."

Hall would not discuss the contract yesterday, saying only, "There is no agreement because we haven't been able to come to an agreement."

But he did say that while there have been many faxes, there have also been conversations and face-to-face meetings since Witt was drafted.

As to the pros and cons of letting yesterday's noon deadline pass, Hall said, "Those are things to debate and talk about."

It appears Witt's options have grown smaller since the passage of the new collective bargaining agreement. The Capitals' offer is a four-year, one-way deal, which means Witt can not be paid a smaller salary if he is sent to the minor leagues.

Beginning this summer, all rookie contracts will be mandatory, two-way deals.

Poile said the Capitals will not trade Witt. Instead, if Witt does not sign before this summer's entry draft (which was originally scheduled for June 17, but will be delayed until the playoffs are over), he will go back into the draft and be subject to the new rookie salary cap.

If that happens, according to NHL rules, Washington will be compensated with the 11th pick in the second round of the 1995 draft.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, rookie salaries are capped at $850,000.

Witt is home in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, working out with the Humboldt Broncos, a Tier 2 junior team and not playing competitively.

He decided not to return to Seattle of the Western Hockey League because, said Hall, "It was more a 'been there, done that' thing. He enjoyed it, but simply decided not to go back."

Messages left on Witt's answering machine yesterday were not returned.

* The Caps will have film meetings today and will not skate at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton. They will resume skating tomorrow at 10 a.m.


Issue ..... Caps' offer .......... Best terms as 1995 ...... Difference

..... ..... ........... .......... first-round draftee

Term ... 4 years, through '97-98.. 3 years, through '97-98

1-way .. 1-way all 4 years ....... Mandatory 2-way

or 2-way ................. ....... all 3 years


earnings ... $3,301,463 ........... $1,462,500 ............. $1,838,963


earnings* .. $3,301,463 ........... $2,550,000 .............. $751,463

* -- excluding performance bonuses

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