The Washington Capitals hired an assistant for Coach Terry Murray yesterday, while General Manager David Poile continued work toward his decision on whether to match the St. Louis Blues' offer sheet signed by defenseman Scott Stevens.

John Perpich, who spent the last four years as coach at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., will join the Capitals' staff as Murray's lone assistant. The 38-year-old Perpich, a cousin of Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich, is a native of Hibbing, Minn. He played for and earned two degrees from the University of Minnesota, for whom he also worked five seasons as an assistant.

"His technical and tactical skills are good and he has an ability to make a presentation," said Murray, who, with a young team, considered Perpich's experience with young players a plus.

Meanwhile, Poile had more discussions with officials from other teams (he would not be specific) about the relative worth of Stevens. Poile said he was informed by the league that he has until midnight Thursday to decide if he will match the offer sheet Stevens signed last week.

"Lots of conversation, but no action," Poile said. "I think it's going to go down to the wire."

Poile said he got a clarification of the league bylaws on compensation, in case he decides not to match the offer -- which calls for Stevens to make, according to a source, an average of $1.3 million over four years.

An NHL spokesman said yesterday the Blues would have to deliver two first-round draft picks in the top seven overall within the next three years. If either pick is not in the top seven, the Capitals also will get the Blues' first-round picks in 1994, 1995, 1996.

However, Poile said the interpretation he received was that the Blues would have to deliver the two first-rounders within the top seven in the next two years, because the Blues currently have their '91 and '92 first-round picks. Under this interpretation, if either the '91 or '92 pick was not in the top seven, the Capitals would receive the Blues' first-round picks in '93, '94, '95.

Poile could re-sign and keep Stevens, though it would greatly distort the team's salary structure. Poile could re-sign and trade Stevens. Or he could take the draft picks from St. Louis and use them to trade for a high quality defenseman.

"That's a good scenario," Murray said, adding he isn't sure what will happen. "Scott Stevens is an important player, who played 20 to 30 minutes a game and was very durable. It might be tough to fill all of those minutes with one guy who was playing in Baltimore. With Scott, you're looking at one of the top dozen defensemen in the league."

Also, goalie Bob Mason cleared waivers and the Capitals bought out the remaining year of his contract.