The Montreal Four rolled into training camp here today with the rest of the Washington Capitals, collecting playbooks, meeting new teammates and settling in for three weeks of preseason skating.
Defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom, center Doug Jarvis and left wing Craig Laughlin were traded from the Canadiens on Friday for former Capitals captain Ryan Walter and defenseman Rick Green.
"Washington got a great deal," Langway said yesterday, with no attempt at modesty. "Brian and I are one of the better defensive pairings in the legaue. But in Montreal, we were always under the Robinsons, Lafleurs and Savards. Here I know I'll have a chance to bloom."
Defensive help has been one of Washington's biggest needs, and in making the trade, Capitals General Manager Dave Poile brought in a pair of all-star defenseman, in addition to defensive forward Jarvis.
"My reaction was, what's Montreal doing, getting rid of a top defensive center man, and two top defensemen?" Laughlin said. "I sort of expected to be traded somewhere, but the others surprised me. Maybe Montreal realized it had to make some changes, the way Washington is doing."
Langway, who grew up in Boston, had wanted to play for a U.S. hockey team ever since Canada's tax structure started taking hefty bites out of his salary. "After losing 25 cents on the dollar right away, you're talking 63 percent on taxes," he said. "And since I'm a U.S. citizen, I have to pay a lot of it back here.
"I told Irving Grundman (Canadiens vice president) I may as well go on unemployment. Maybe that's why he traded me."
Engblom sees the move to Washington as a "different kind of challenge. The sights here are a little lower than in Montreal," he said. "There you're buying to win the Stanley Cup. Here they're just preparing to make a real run at the playoffs. And once we get organized, yeah, I think it'll happen.
"Everybody's been analyzing the trade since it happened. Apparently they wanted Walter and decided to pay whatever they had to get him."
Engblom said it was "nice to be traded with people you know. That way you don't feel like such a stranger until you know the new guys."
Jarvis opted for an afternoon nap yesterday rather than to talk about his new life in a Capitals' jersey, but Laughlin was eager to look ahead. "In Montreal, it's hard to make a career if you're a young player," he said. Last season he spent half the year with Montreal's farm club, and came to the Forum when injuries thinned the Canadiens' regular ranks.
"I know the Montreal feeling, though. Once you play there, wear a Canadiens' uniform, you get a feeling that every time you play, you have to go out and give better than 150 percent," he said. "You just go out and win. Maybe Washington didn't have that."
Engblom agreed. "Winning and losing are kind of trends," he said. you've got to break one to get into the other. It's time for the Capitals to break a trend."