The Washington Capitals, told yesterday morning that goalie Bob Mason would not be returning to the team, reacted by engineering a draft-day trade that sent forwards Alan Haworth and Gaetan Duchesne and a first-round draft pick to the Quebec Nordiques for center Dale Hunter and goalie Clint Malarchuk.

Capitals General Manager David Poile was in Detroit for yesterday's National Hockey League entry draft, and, before it started, talked to Mason. Mason told him that he would sign with another NHL team. Poile said he understood it to be the the Chicago Blackhawks, but Mason would not confirm that.

His departure from the Capitals created an urgent need for goaltending.

"This is a very big trade in what we got and what we gave up," Poile said. "{Quebec General Manager} Maurice Filion and I had been talking during the season about Dale Hunter, whom I consider one of the better players in the NHL. He's a sparkplug, a guy who gets to the nitty-gritty and is a win-at-all-cost type of player. But {the discussion} seemed to stagnate. Then this morning I was informed by Bob Mason and his agent that he was going to sign with another NHL team. Because of that, I asked Quebec if they would consider trading Clint Malarchuk, and the deal took off from there and was culminated about five minutes before we were to make our first pick."

For the Capitals, the trade amounts to giving up a checker and a scorer in return for a checker and a goalie. Haworth played in only 50 regular season games, but, with 25 goals, was the third-best goal scorer on the team. Losing a scorer from a team that has had trouble doing just that might pose a problem, but Poile said he thinks the team will be better off.

"I didn't want to trade either player," Poile said. "Alan and Gaetan have played well for us for five years. But we're giving up something to get something. The club is set up better with the trade than before.

"We have improved at center with {Bengt} Gustafsson and Hunter. Alan had become expendable. Alan had improved the last couple years and he wanted to get more ice time. With Bob Gould, Mike Ridley, Gus and Hunter as centers, that would be tough. Gaetan was as honest as the day is long as far as his work ethic, and I was reluctant to give that up."

The Buffalo Sabres drafted first and chose Pierre Turgeon, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound center from Granby, who is a younger brother of Hartford's Sylvain Turgeon. With the Capitals's first-round pick going to Quebec, Washington's first selection was Jeff Ballantyne, a 6-2, 193-pound defenseman from Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League. Later in the draft, the Capitals traded their ninth-round draft pick for the Nordiques' 12th-round pick this year and their 10th-round pick next year.

Mason's decision was the catalyst for the big trade. He had signed a termination contract before last season, which made him a free agent after the season. He had a 20-18-5 record in 45 regular season games, with a 3.24 goals-against average. He was spectacular in the playoffs and that put him in a strong negotiating position, especially because no other team would have to compensate the Capitals if they signed him.

He would not confirm that he was going to Chicago, only that he had tentatively agreed to a four-year contract with the Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins or Blackhawks. Bill Wirtz, owner of the Blackhawks, would neither confirm or deny that his team had reached an agreement with Mason, but told the Chicago Sun-Times: "If we get an opportunity, we're damn serious about it."

"It wasn't anything negative against Washington," Mason said by phone from his home in Minnesota. "it just boiled down to money. TI was a substantial difference and that was the deciding factor. I felt very comfortable in Washington. I had the utmost respect for David Poile and Bryan Murray and I think very highly of Warren Strelow {Washington's goaltending coach}. It was a tough decision, but I have got to look out for my future."

He said that, if the Capitals had made their latest offer early in the year or during the season, he probably would have accepted.

"If he would have offered that at the start of the season or, say December, I probably would have stayed," Mason said. "But both sides can look back and say, 'I should have done this or done that.' I enjoyed myself and I wanted to be back in Washington. I think you can say we were both a little disappointed."

"I'm more disappointed than surprised," Poile said. "I thought Bob wanted to play for us. He had come a long way for us in the last part of the year. But if a player doesn't want to play for you, you've got to move on."

Malarchuk, 26, who is nine days younger than Mason, was one of the all-star goaltenders in the NHL's Rendez-Vous '87 series with the Soviets, although he did not play. In 54 games this season, he had an 18-26-9 record with a 3.40 goals-against average, with one shutout. Although he played in more regular season games than Mario Gosselin, Quebec's other goalie, Gosselin played in 10 of the Nordiques' 13 playoff games. In the playoffs, Malarchuk was 0-2, with a 3.43 goals against average and a .857 save percentage.

"Malarchuk is as good, if not better, than Mason," Poile said. "He is the same type of goalie as Mason. Both are up and coming. He was Quebec's No. 1 goalie, and is a terrific competitor. He fills a big void created by Mason leaving."

Coming off his seventh NHL season, Hunter, who will be 27 on July 31, is considered a good checking and strong playmaking center. He played in only 46 games last season because of a shoulder injury, getting 10 goals and 29 assists. He had 135 penalty minutes. In 13 playoff games, he had a goal and seven assists. "I think we've added offense," Murray said of the Haworth-Hunter tradeoff.

Duchesne, who had 17 goals and 35 assists last season, was one of the best checking forwards the Capitals had. He was shocked by the trade.

"I am disappointed because Washington is the team that drafted me in 1981 and I was there for six years and I was very happy," said Duchesne, who is visiting his family in Quebec. "But there is not much choice. I have to accept it. It was a very good six years and the people in Washington were very good to me.

"I can't be angry with Washington because they gave me a chance to make it in the NHL. David was always honest with me and Bryan was a good coach for me. I have nothing bad to say. It's nice that I will be closer to home {he is a native of Quebec City}, but it would have been nicer to stay in Washington."

2. JEFF BALLANTYNE: Defenseman. 6-2, 193 pounds. Age: 18. Two goals, 13 assists in 65 games last season for Ottawa of Ontario Hockey League. NHL's Central Scouting Bureau report: "Plays a steady defensive game . . . uses his body effectively along the boards and in the corners." Shoots left.

3. STEVE MALTAIS: Left wing. 6-1, 191. Age: 18. 32 goals, 12 assists in 65 games for Cornwall of Ontario Hockey League. NHL's Central Scouting Bureau report: "Possesses excellent size and strength . . . plays a clean physical style." Shoots left.

4. TYLER LARTER: Center. 5-11, 181. Age: 19. 34 goals, 59 assists in 59 games for Sault Ste. Marie of Ontario Hockey League.

5. PAT BEAUCHESNE: Defenseman. 6-2, 209. Age: 22. 11 goals, 33 assists in 69 games for Moose Jaw of WHL.

6. RICH DEFREITAS: Defenseman. 6-2, 195. 13 goals, 32 assists in 23 games for St. Marks High in Southborough, Mass.

7. DEVON OLENIUK: Defenseman. 6-1, 186. Two goals, 10 assists in 55 games for Kamloops of Western Hockey League.

8. THOMAS SJOGREN: Wing. 5-9, 178. 10 goals, 11 assists in 31 games for Frolunda, Sweden.

10. CHRIS CLARK: Defenseman. 6-0, 175. Age: 19. 19 goals, 88 assists in 57 games for Pembroke on the Tier II level, Bathhurst, New Brunswick.

11. MILOS VANIK: Center. Four goals, nine assists in 39 games for EHC Freiburg, West Germany.

12. DAN BRETTSCHNIEDER: Right wing. 6-2, 180. Age: 18. 24 goals, 32 assists in 27 games for Burnsville (Minn.) High.

12. RYAN KUMMU: Defenseman. 6-3, 205. Age: 20.

MARK ANDERSON: Supplementary pick. Left wing. 6-1, 180. FIRST ROUND OF NHL DRAFT

Amateur club and league in parentheses

1, Buffalo, Pierre Turgeon, c, Granby (QMJHL); 2, New Jersey, Brendan Shanahan, c, London (OHL); 3, Boston (from Vancouver), Glen Wesley, d, Portland (WHL); 4, Los Angeles (from Minnesota), Wayne McBean, d, Medicine Hat (WHL); 5, Pittsburgh, Chris Joseph, d, Seattle (WHL); 6, Minnesota (from Los Angeles), Dave Archibald, c, Portland (WHL); 7, Toronto, Luke Richardson, d, Peterborough (OHL).

8, Chicago, Jimmy Waite, g, Chicoutimi (QMJHL); 9, Quebec, Bryan Fogarty, d, Kingston (OHL); 10, New York Rangers, Jayson More, d, New Westminster (WHL); 11, Detroit, Yves Racine, d, Longueuil (QMJHL); 12, St. Louis, Keith Osborne, rw, North Bay (OHL); 13, New York Islanders, Dean Chynoweth, d, Medicine Hat (WHL); 14, Boston, Stephane Quintal, d, Granby (QMJHL).

15, Quebec (from Washington), Joe Sakic, c, Swift Current (WHL); 16, Winnipeg, Bryan Marchment, d, Belleville (OHL); 17, Montreal, Andrew Cassels, c, Ottawa (OHL); 18, Hartford, Jody Hull, rw, Peterborough (OHL); 19, Calgary, Bryan Deasely, lw, Univ. of Michigan (CCHA); 20, Philadelphia, Darren Rumble, d, Kitchener (OHL); 21, Edmonton, Peter Soberlak, lw, Swift Current (WHL).

CAPITALS DRAFT PICKS

1, (Traded to Quebec); 2, Jeff Ballantyne, d, Ottawa (OHL); 3, Steve Maltais, lw, Cornwall (OHL); 4, Tyler Larter, c, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); 5, Pat Beauchesne, d, Moose Jaw (WHL); 6, Rich Defreitas, d, St. Marks High School, (Mass.) 7, Devon Oleniuk, d, Kamloops (WHL); 8, Thomas Sjogren, w, Frolunda (Sweden); 9, (Traded to Quebec); 10, Chris Clark, d, Pembroke (Tier II); 11, Milos Vanik, c, EHC Freiburg (West Germany); 12 (From Quebec), Dan Brettschnieder, rw, Burnsville High School (Minn.); 12, Ryan Kummu, d, RPI. Supplemental: Mark Anderson, lw, Ohio State.