The Washington Capitals' most obvious deficiency last season was the lack of a capable puckhandler on the left point of the power play. The left point is still unmanned as the club prepares for its eighth season, but General Manager Max McNab said yesterday he had not abandoned a summer-long search.
"We are working at it pretty diligently," McNab said. "We are aware. We're making a pretty concerted effort and we have a couple of strong feelers out."
The strongest "feeler" is believed to be directed toward Chicago, with Washington willing to part with its No. 1 draft choice in 1982 for defenseman Doug Wilson. Earlier this summer, it is believed the Capitals tried unsuccessfully to obtain Wilson for Paul Mulvey and a No. 2 draft selection.
Asked specifically about Wilson, McNab said, "There is no question he fits the mold we are seeking. But we have talked to so many clubs and all are a little reluctant at this time, because the draft choices of the last two years are still a year or two away and there is a lot of uncertainty going into training camp."
Wilson, 24, recorded 12 goals and 39 assists last season, topping Washington's top defenseman, Rick Green, by 20 points. He manned the left point on a Chicago power play that ranked 14th in the NHL, compared to Washington's 19th. Wilson had been reported unhappy at the close of last season but he signed a new contract in July. A Chicago source commented, "There hasn't been any talk here of trading Doug, but we do have a lot of defensemen."
The Hawks figure to lose at least one defenseman in the waiver draft on Oct. 5, so presumably they would be more willing than most clubs to effect a deal before that date.
The Capitals since McNab came in December 1975 have held to a policy of retaining their first-round draft pick. The only deal involving a No. 1, for Dennis Maruk, gave up a selection obtained from Pittsburgh for Hartland Monahan. This is such a critical year for the Capitals, however, after seven seasons without a playoff berth, that McNab said, "We have established a policy this might be the year to talk about it (trading a No. 1)."