Mike Gartner, the Washington Capitals' first choice in the Aug. 9 entry draft, wants a lot more money. John Ziegler, National Hockey League president, will decide this morning whether Gartner's demands are justified and, if so, Ziegler is expected to satisfy some of them out of league funds.
Gartner played for the Cincinnati Stingers in the World Hockey Association last year. When Cincinnati was dissolved as part of the professional hockey merger, Gartner was still under contract for an option year at a substantial salary. Nevertheless, he did not object to his participation in the entry draft.
Four members of the Birmingham team, another merger casualty, did object. They were subject to the draft anyway, but later received compensatory payments from the NHL, paid in large part by the four new entries from the WHA as cleanup costs.
Aware of the Birmingham players' monetary success, Gartner's agents claimed that he deserved a similar payment. Should the league award it to him, Gartner is likely to sign with Washington without further wrangling. Should Gartner be turned down in today's session at Toronto, however, he probably will try to make the Capitals come through with considerably more cash.
"Our proposal to Gartner is in line with normal first-round draft payments," said Max McNab, Washington general manager. "His agents (Gus Vidali and Bill Sasso) feel it might be short, based on the option year of his Cincinnati contract. There's a fair piece of money involved. I'm sure it will be settled, though, because we want him and he wants us."
The Capitals' No. 2 draft pick, winger Errol Rausse of Portland, agreed to terms on a multiyear contract yesterday and will sign when he reports to training camp at Hershey, Pa., Sunday.
Rausse was represented by Bill Watters and Alan Eagleson, who also met in Toronto last night with Capital negotiator Peter O'Malley concerning the future of defenseman Pierre Bouchard.
"I am still waiting," Bouchard said last night by phone from Montreal. "It is sad that this has stretched out all summer. I went down there in the spring so I could get it settled and get an apartment, but here I am ready to live out of a suitcase if it finally does get settled."
Ziegler also is scheduled to rule today on the Capitals' appeal of his assignment of Swedish winger Bengt-Ake Gustafsson to Edmonton.