In one of the few deals to occur in the National Hockey League before yesterday's 3 p.m. trading deadline, the Washington Capitals sent backup goalie Jim Hrivnak and future considerations to the Winnipeg Jets for their backup goalie, Rick Tabaracci.

The future considerations could be a draft pick, as high as the second round, depending in part on whether the Capitals choose to protect Tabaracci in the expansion draft.

Hrivnak was frustrated enough by his lack of playing time in recent weeks that yesterday he joined the small group of people who look forward to going to Winnipeg.

"I'm happy because the {Capitals} never gave me a chance," Hrivnak said of the Capitals. "It's a great organization, but I feel I was never given the chance to play."

Tabaracci, 24, said yesterday he would arrive in Washington late last night and he likely will be in uniform as the backup when the Capitals face the Quebec Nordiques at 7:40 at Capital Centre.

Hrivnak, who will be 25 in May, spent all or part of four seasons with the Capitals, who drafted him in 1986. He was clearly the backup goalie for the last three months of last season and then re-captured the job in training camp. There was a stretch in late November when the gap between Hrivnak and No. 1 goalie Don Beaupre might have narrowed. Hrivnak was 8-3-1 with a 2.56 GAA as of Dec. 1. But Murray chose to go back to Beaupre, 31, more often. And in recent weeks, Hrivnak's presence in the lineup was minimal. He started just five of the last 27 games and none of the last 10.

"Maybe my confidence, from my side {in Hrivnak} was not what it was in the early part of the season," Murray said.

The clearest signal of Murray's loss of confidence came Sunday when the Capitals beat San Jose, 5-3. The Sharks were tied for last place overall. Relative to the other 13 games left on the schedule, it seemed like the easiest to win and offered the best chance to give Beaupre a rest. But Murray chose to use Beaupre (23-19-5, 3.40 GAA), saying on Saturday and again yesterday that the closeness of the division race dictated using his best players. However, Murray said he intended to use Tabaracci in three or four games to see what he has for himself.

"Donnie Beaupre is clearly my Number 1 goaltender, but I hope he {Tabaracci} is able to come in and help us in the stretch drive," Murray said. "I liked what I saw when they were in the playoffs against Vancouver. It was an opportunity to get a player, in a situation, that was better than what we have."

Tabaracci (5-foot-11, 179 pounds) was the 26th pick overall by Pittsburgh in 1987 and then went to Winnipeg in a six-player trade in 1989. Last season, when Bob Essensa was injured late in the season, Tabaracci played six straight games (3-2, 2.66 GAA). Though Essensa was healthy for the playoffs, Tabaracci got the call and helped the fourth-place Jets take the first-place Canucks to seven games before Vancouver prevailed. Though this season was broken up by a few injuries (including back spasms related to one leg being three quarters of a inch longer than the other), the playing time didn't come as much as Tabaracci expected, given his playoff performance. Essensa is 28-24-5 (3.56 GAA) in 59 games while Tabaracci is 5-10-0 (4.38 GAA) in 19 games.

"That was the most disappointing thing," Tabaracci said by phone yesterday. "I didn't expect to walk in and have someone say, 'Here's the Number 1 job,' but I thought it would be more open. If one guy was playing well, he would go. If not then it would be the other guy."

While both cities are home to many fine people, NHL players generally consider Winnipeg and Quebec the last two places they would like to be traded for various reasons. In Winnipeg, Hrivnak will join a couple ex-Capitals in John Druce and Mike Lalor, both of whom Tabaracci spoke with yesterday. The Jets, who are in fourth place in the Smythe Division, might have to play the Canucks again in the first round.

"Things have changed a little, in that defense was always our forte," Tabaracci said of the Jets. "With the addition of the European players, we were starting to play a more wide-open offensive style. Looking at the numbers, we struggled defensively. But I thought we were lined up well for the division come playoff time. I guess I should say 'they.' "

Capitals Notes: Randy Burridge continues to make strides toward recovery from his double knee surgery. Burridge, who has been practicing with the Capitals, yesterday was assigned to Baltimore for a two-week conditioning stay. The Skipjacks begin a seven-game road trip on Thursday.