The Washington Capitals, devoid of depth on defense, traded right wing Bryan Erickson to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Bruce Shoebottom yesterday in a deal involving minor-league players.

Erickson, 25, passed up a chance to play for the U.S. Olympic team when he signed with the Capitals in 1983, after graduating from the University of Minnesota. He scored 12 goals in 45 games for Washington in 1983-84 and 15 in 57 last season.

In early March, Washington management decided Erickson lacked the size and strength necessary to play in the Patrick Division and shipped him to Binghamton. He was sent back to the American Hockey League team this fall and had five goals in eight games for the Whalers.

Yesterday, Shoebottom, 20, was assigned to Binghamton. He had been playing for the Kings' AHL team in New Haven. Shoebottom, 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds, played junior hockey in Peterborough the last three years, where his progress was slowed by two broken legs and an attack of hepatitis.

Until they acquired Shoebottom, the Capitals did not have a healthy defenseman in Binghamton. They recalled Yves Beaudoin yesterday because of injuries to Rod Langway and Larry Murphy.

"This is a long-range deal, even though our current problem is a short-term one," said General Manager David Poile. "Butsy (Erickson) has an excellent chance to play in L.A., which is in a division that relies on speed and quickness. We traded him for a prospect who may be a couple of years away. But Bruce is a big, aggressive kid who plays with a lot of enthusiasm."