Washington General Manager David Poile said yesterday he has filed tampering charges with the National Hockey League office against the Detroit Red Wings involving their pursuit of Capitals' defenseman Mike McEwen.

Poile is convinced that the Red Wings began contract negotiations with McEwen before he officially became a free agent July 1 and that they have reached an agreement with McEwen.

"The Detroit Red Wings approached Mike McEwen about negotiations to play with their club prior to July 1," Poile said yesterday. "Before July 1, he was property of the Washington Capitals."

Red Wings Executive Vice President Jim Lites Thursday denied the tampering charges first made public by Pittsburgh General Manager Eddie Johnston in the case of Warren Young, a former Penguins player who signed with Detroit earlier in the week. Minnesota also reportedly has filed charges of tampering with defenseman Harold Snepsts. A Detroit spokesman yesterday said the team will make no announcement concerning McEwen.

Poile said he filed the charges before July 1, and that he intended to re-sign McEwen, who had 11 goals, 27 assists in 56 games. McEwen was not available to comment.

The NHL office in New York would not comment on whether the charges had been filed. NHL President John Ziegler said Thursday the league would comment only if a team charged with tampering was found guilty and ordered to pay a penalty. Penalties for tampering include fines against the team or draft choices taken away.

Poile said he is not sure when the league will announce its findings in the case.

"There's not much of a history in the NHL," Poile said. "I have no idea, nor do I think the league knows how any decision will be handled.

"It's not just us. It's been in Pittsburgh and Minnesota. In the sports business, it's hard enough operating or competing if everyone is operating under the same rules. But if you have a double standard, it's next to impossible. Detroit has created that."