Clint Malarchuk has been bouncing around Alberta for nearly two days, downright ecstatic that he will be a Washington Capital next season.

"I'm just so excited," Malarchuk said by telephone yesterday from his home in Calgary. "This has never happened to me before and I'm really elated. I'm walking around shaking."

Malarchuk was part of a four-player trade executed Saturday during the first round of the NHL entry draft in Detroit. Malarchuk, who played 54 games in goal for Quebec last season, and center Dale Hunter were traded to the Capitals for center Alan Haworth, left wing Gaetan Duchesne and a first-round draft pick (15th overall) that the Nordiques used to select Burnaby center Joe Sakic.

The trade came about in good part because Bob Mason, who played so well in goal for Washington during the playoffs, told Capitals General Manager David Poile that he would not be returning to the team. Mason, whose termination contract made him a free agent after the end of the 1986-87 season, said he has reached an agreement on a new contract, but wouldn't say whether it was with the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota North Stars, Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks. Although Bob Pulford, the Blackhawks general manager, declined to comment when asked if Mason already had signed with Chicago, he did tell the Chicago Sun-Times the team has scheduled a Thursday news conference. Mason also said an announcement would be made Thursday.

Mason's departure meant the Capitals had an urgent need for another goaltender to go along with Pete Peeters.

So Poile, who said he had been talking with Quebec about Hunter for a couple months, went back to the Nordiques and asked if they could work a deal with Malarchuk.

"I was surprised," said Malarchuk, 26. "Not that I had any complaints about Quebec, but it's something I'm really looking forward to. Sometimes you need a change. A new city and a new team is real exciting."

Malarchuk had an 18-26-9 record with a 3.40 goals against average in 54 regular season games. Quebec's other goalie, Mario Gosselin, played in 10 of the Nordiques' 13 playoff games. Malarchuk was 0-2 in three playoff games, with a 3.43 goals-against average and an .857 save percentage.

Capitals Coach Bryan Murray was asked whether he would rather have Mason or Malarchuk.

"That's a tough question," Murray said. "We liked what we saw in Bob Mason. He was coming on, especially in the latter part of the season. Malarchuk is an established, very solid standup goaltender. He played well, and at times had some games that weren't so good. But he is real promising. Mason probably caught the puck as well as anyone. It's a tough question. They are very, very comparable."

Jack Button, the Capitals' director of player personnel and recruitment, was very enthusiastic about Malarchuk and Hunter.

"Clint Malarchuk is all-star material," Button said. "We may have a guy who can challenge Ron Hextall {Philadelphia's outstanding rookie goalie}. I hope people don't think we made this trade just because Mason left. We got two quality hockey players."

Malarchuk said it's natural that the Capitals would have wanted to keep Mason.

"It's just part of the game," Malarchuk said. "It's a game of numbers, with guys coming and going. They drafted him and brought him along. He's going to be their man. Now he's gone. But I don't look at it as being second fiddle.

"I know Pete Peeters quite well, and he is the type of guy you can work with," Malarchuk said. "Mario and I felt we had a good goaltending team. I know Pete, and I think we can help each other."

Murray was pleased to get Hunter, whom he called "one of the most enthusiastic, fiery, competitive guys in the NHL.

"There is not one team in the league that would not do something to try to get him if they had the chance. He was an on-ice leader for Quebec . . . .

"Dale Hunter is a tremendous playmaker and solid defensive center. Alan Haworth is a shooter. We may have lost a couple of goals on individual plays Haworth might have made, but we're getting additional scoring opportunities."

Hunter was in Detroit for the draft.

"I just went to watch, not get involved," Hunter said by telephone yesterday from his farm in Ontario.

"We had a bad year last year {eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the Adams Division finals this season}, so management felt like it had to make changes," Hunter said. "But I'm happy I went to a good club like Washington. I hope I can help. . . . I am a playmaker and, hopefully, I can set up a few goals for them."