Washington Capitals General Manager David Poile said yesterday he will not trade the four players accused of involvement in a sexual assault because of potential public relations fallout from the incident last month.
"I've had people ask me what I was going to do or if I was going to do anything," Poile said of discussions with other general managers at the just-completed National Hockey League meetings in Vancouver. "I said no, that I was not going to be doing anything with them. That was the end of the discussion."
The U.S. Attorney's office and a D.C. Superior Court grand jury are looking into accusations by a girl, 17, that four members of the Capitals -- Dino Ciccarelli, Geoff Courtnall, Scott Stevens and Neil Sheehy -- raped and sodomized her in a limousine after a team party May 11 at Champions bar in Georgetown. The players have denied that and no charges have been filed in the case, which is more than five weeks old.
Though Poile said the eventual legal outcome isn't likely to affect his decision, this stance does not preclude a trade should another team make an attractive offer.
"In terms of normal business, everybody has a price," Poile said. "But the overview of this is that at the end of the season I didn't see us making many changes."
Asked if he knew of owner Abe Pollin's opinion on the matter, Poile said he did not want to speak for his boss.
Pollin, who has said nothing publicly about the incident, declined to comment about the situation when asked about it last week after a Capital Centre news conference announcing the resignation of Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry. Pollin, who also owns the Bullets, did not return a phone call yesterday.
The U.S. Attorney's office has given no indication of whether the grand jury might decide to indict or not indict. Judy Smith, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office, declined to comment yesterday.
A law enforcement source said all of the likely witnesses have appeared before the grand jury but no vote has been taken.
When Poile was asked if his decision was based on an inkling, hope or belief that no charges will result, he said: "All of the above. We're all hoping this will be resolved with a favorable outcome, but I don't think any of us knows."
Ciccarelli declined to comment on Poile's statement. Courtnall, Sheehy and Stevens could not be reached for comment.
Stevens played out the option year of his contract and is a free agent, and Poile is negotiating with Stevens's agent, Rick Bennett. If there is no agreement by July 1, Stevens would be free to negotiate with other teams. However, because of the relatively restrictive free-agency system in hockey, any team signing Stevens at the salary he is likely to command would have to compensate the Capitals with $100,000 and two first-round draft picks within the top seven spots overall.
"I'm very concerned that Scott Stevens is unsigned," Poile said. "I would like to get him signed, regardless of the free-agency situation. I'd rather he be signed than have him be a free agent."
Bennett did not return a phone call.
Poile said negotiations have not begun with the agent for goalie Don Beaupre, who also played out his option and is now a free agent.
Poile has offered termination contracts to several players, including forward John Tucker.
"We've got 10 days to see what he wants to do," Poile said of Tucker, who was acquired from Buffalo on Jan. 4. "He may sign with another team, maybe go to Europe or he may come back."
At 26, Tucker (nine goals, 19 assists in 38 games) played very well at times but was scratched from the lineup in two of the four games against Boston in the Wales Conference finals. He has excellent stickhandling ability but is not the quickest skater in the NHL. He said he is planning on attending two skating schools this summer to improve his speed.
"I'd like to play over here, but we'll have to see what happens," he said yesterday.
Players offered termination contracts have until June 30 to negotiate with other teams (who can sign them without compensation) or sign the termination deal. Defensemen Brian Tutt and Dennis Smith, along with goalie Bob Mason, have been offered such contracts, but Poile said he had not heard whether they will be signing them or not.
Meanwhile, the Capitals and their farm club, the Baltimore Skipjacks, have a news conference scheduled for this morning in Baltimore, where they are expected to announce a coaching change for the Skipjacks. Doug MacLean is expected to be out.
Staff writer Sari Horwitz contributed to this report.