For the Washington Capitals, any dividends from Wednesday's NHL draft will be strictly long term.

"All those kids we picked are future prospects, and there isn't one who can come and step in to play for the Capitals," said General Manager David Poile, who swapped Washington's first-round pick for Winnipeg center Dave Christian. "Getting Christian will help us right now, because he's such a flexible player."

Poile said yesterday he had wanted to have "a 'name' (player) identified with my first-round draft choice before giving it up, but we got no breaks in the draft."

The Capitals, choosing 14th in the league's 21-team draft, were not in the race for the top names of the day, notably centers Brian Lawton and Pat Lafontaine, but even the next level of talent was taken before Washington had a chance. "The players we were most interested in were gone when it was our turn," Poile said.

The 1983 amateur draft offered fewer top prospects than in recent years, a factor caused by "young kids being pushed out of midget hockey early," according to Capitals Coach Bryan Murray.

"We still haven't seen the revival of high quality competition at the lower levels," he said. "Next year's should be a better quality draft, but this year, even in the first round, there are quite a number of kids that will not, cannot, play right away in the National Hockey League."

Poile is pleased with the players he drafted, however. "There was strong feeling for each guy we picked," he said. "In discussions (with the Capitals staff), we all agreed to take players you have a genuine interest in, players who will someday, if not right away, have a chance to play in the NHL."

After trading its first-round pick, Washington did not have any second- or third-round choices. "The earliest pick we had was the 77th player (center Tim Bergland)," Poile said. "We were happy to get a kid like Tim, who will be going to the University of Minnesota next year, but that means he won't fit into our plans for a few years at least. Being candid about it, all the kids we chose--Anders Huss (from Sweden), who's 17, (defenseman Martin) Boulaine--have a long way to go."

Poile said his club will go to training camp this year with basically the same team--minus Milan Novy, Ted Bulley and Randy Holt, who were released--that finished the 1982-83 season.

"That's by design," he said. "We came through a year of stability, which was so important to this team. Keeping pretty much the same group may mean the competition at training camp may not be as stiff as a year ago, although at the forward situation, the question will be where people play."

Poile thinks other players within the Capitals system, such as James McGeough and Torrie Robertson, may make the club next season. Chris Valentine, who spent most of last year in Hershey, "may have competition to maintain his position," Poile said.

The acquisition of Christian, Poile said, "makes us deeper than ever at center. But Christian is a coach's delight because he can do so many things. He's another (Doug) Jarvis. He wouldn't play defense, unless it was a last-gasp effort, if we had injuries. But he can play all three forward positions, and the point on the power play."

Poile and Murray plan to improve the power play with Christian, Darren Veitch, who was injured most of last season, and Peter Andersson, from the Swedish national team.

"We're still a young team," he said. "And we've added to our stability with a guy like Christian."