The Washington Capitals' big trade with the Montreal Canadiens Friday left former Capitals Ryan Walter and Rick Green shaken and a trifle sad at leaving Washington. It also changes the picture in the Capitals training camp that will open tonight at Hershey, Pa.
Sixty-nine players, who will be assigned to four separate teams, are still expected to report to the Hersheypark Arena tonight, and three weeks of intensive workouts will lean heavily on intrasquad competition, according to Coach Bryan Murray.
Left wing Walter, 24, the second pick in the 1978 National Hockey League draft and Green, a 26-year-old defenseman who was the first man chosen in the 1976 draft, were traded to get defensive help the team always had lacked. The Capitals received all-star defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom, center Doug Jarvis and forward Craig Laughlin.
Amid the last-minute preparations for camp, Walter had stopped by Capital Centre at noontime Friday to take care of a few things. Someone asked if he was looking forward to camp.
"I'll be there Sunday," he said, and disappeared into the sunshine.
Of course, "there" now means Montreal's Forum.
"They (the Capitals) needed the defense," said Walter yesterday, sounding wistful. "And they felt they had to make the move."
Walter said he hadn't heeded reports that Montreal was interested in him. "I can remember (former acting general manager) Roger Crozier saying, "Don't worry, we're not going to trade you,'" he said. "Maybe with the change in management I should have been warned.
"I've been here four years, and I'm sorry to leave the area. It would have been nice to stay, to see Washington get up and over the hard times."
Green said the move won't hit him until he dons a Canadiens jersey for the first time."
"Then I'll know it's for real," he said. "I've seen some bad days here. It'll be nice to see a change for them," Green added, emphazising 'them.'
"Yeah, I was shocked, but there is such a thing as a pleasant shock. But Washington has been through so many changes. I look back and just hope they're for the best."
Walter spent a worrisome summer in Washington, waiting to see if the club would be sold, moved or folded because of financial troubles.
"You have to give our guys a lot of credit," he said, perhaps still thinking as Washington's captain. "They're going to camp just a few weeks after they didn't even know they'd be a team. That's got to take its toll."
Before the trade, Murray had lamented the club's defensive shortage.
"There are three or four spots available on the blueline for anyone who wants to step forward and try," he said then. "There could be as many as eight to 10 new faces . . . That's being a little ambitious, but we need at least one complete line, maybe four forwards and goaltending is up for grabs."
Just a day later, with a pair of all-star defensemen and defensive-minded Jarvis in the house, Murray was smugly predicting a battle in Hershey for the last defensive slot.
"There may also be a struggle for a left wing spot, but this leaves us in pretty good shape. I think we've improved tremendously, quickly. Before, Rick Green was really the (only) guy, and no one can do it all alone."
Although Langway and Engblom played as a tandem in Montreal, Murray intends to separate them. "I'd like to play (first-round draft pick) Scott Stevens with one of them," he said. Stevens reportedly has agreed to terms and will sign his contract when he reports to Hershey today.
Murray isn't saying where Milan Novy, the Czechoslovakian center will fit in, but it's likely he will center the second line. "We still have to think of Dennis (Maruk) as our top center," Murray said.
Although there will be "some movement" on the roster, Murray is anxious to settle the club. "We're hoping to stabilize the roster, get linemates working with each other and in general get the players feeling good about being on the hockey team," he said.
For the first few days, the individual "teams" will play a round-robin tournament, giving management a chance to see all personnel in a competitive situation. Before camp's end on Oct. 3, Murray will have weeded out the non-Capitals, leaving about 27 in Washington uniforms.
"We'll take a hard look at guys like (left wing) Gaetan Duchesne. (Right wing) Chris Valentine had a good year last season (30 goals, 37 assists) and he could be better.
"Maybe on our left wing we're not as good as we could be. Obviously we're counting on Bobby Carpenter again, but we could use one beyond him," Murray said. "After that, well, I think we're okay."
Murray said he hasn't had a chance to see newly acquired wings Ted Bulley and Ken Houston and goalie Pat Riggin play. "We'll have to see how they fit in," he said.
With the trade of goalie Mike Palmateer to Toronto Wednesday, General Manager David Poile announced that Riggin would be the No. 1 goalie, a statement he later retracted.
"He's seen a lot of Riggin, and I've seen more of Davey (Parro), so we each have opinions on who's the top man," Murray said. "We should establish our No. 1 goalie sometime during camp."
Because of Friday's infusion of credibility, Murray is concerned that the Capitals sound more than a touch confident over their new situation.
"All of a sudden we're talking as if we're in the Stanley Cup, and it's not meant that way at all," he said. "Maybe we'll be a top 12, or top 10 team, but I don't want to think too far. The pressure will really be applied to this team now. But it's a positive kind of pressure."