Capitals Make Tough Decision With Brashear

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Washington Capitals acquired some protection for young star Alex Ovechkin yesterday by signing free agent enforcer Donald Brashear . One of the game's most feared fighters, Brashear racked up 166 penalty minutes, the eighth most in the league, to go with four goals and five assists last season.

"We're not running a Sunday school," Capitals General Manager George McPhee said. "There were some times [last season] when some defensemen on other teams went after Alex a little bit. And there were a lot of times when Alex ran over other teams' defensemen."

Brashear gives Coach Glen Hanlon a proven deterrent. Brashear, 34, signed a one-year contract worth $1 million to join the Capitals after spending the previous three-plus seasons in Philadelphia.

He probably is remembered most for being viciously attacked by Marty McSorley while he was playing for Vancouver during a game against Boston in February 2000. McSorley whacked Brashear on the temple with a two-handed stick slash, leaving him unconscious and bleeding on the ice. McSorley was charged with assault with a weapon in a British Columbia court. He was found guilty of one count and given 18 months probation and a one-year suspension from the NHL.

The addition of Brashear is the latest move for the rebuilding Capitals, who have signed puck moving defenseman Brian Pothier , traded for speedy right wing Richard Zednik and now have added someone to watch Ovechkin's back.

The Capitals are still looking for a second-line center to skate alongside Alexander Semin and also need a rugged defenseman to replace the departed Brendan Witt .

"I think we're probably two moves away from being a playoff team," McPhee said. "We've come a long way."

McPhee echoed Hanlon's recent comments on making Ovechkin captain next season.

"It's not a matter who, it's probably Ovechkin. It's a matter of when," he said. "Is now the right time for him? Alex might be ready for it. We've got good leadership around him."

The Capitals also signed minor league free agent forwards Alexandre Giroux and Chad Wiseman .

-- Tarik El-Bashir

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