The Washington Capitals yesterday traded perhaps their two best players of the 1990s, defenseman Kevin Hatcher and goaltender Don Beaupre. In separate transactions three days before their first regular season game, the Capitals sent Hatcher -- an unsigned and unhappy three-time all-star -- to Dallas for defenseman Mark Tinordi and the rights to college defenseman Rick Mrozick; they also dealt Beaupre -- their all-time winningest goaltender -- to the Ottawa Senators for a 1995 fifth-round draft pick.

Tinordi, 28, was the Stars' captain for three years, and "he plays hard and physical," said Capitals defenseman Jim Johnson, who was assistant captain in Dallas before being traded last March. The Hatcher trade was expected, but the 33-year-old Beaupre's departure was a bit of a surprise, even though the Capitals had one too many goaltenders in training camp. Rick Tabaracci, 26, and Olaf Kolzig, 24, neither ever a number one National Hockey League goaltender, will man the Capitals' net beginning Saturday night in Hartford.

"To me, this is a big turning point for our franchise," General Manager David Poile said. "Donnie has been pretty much our number one goaltender for the last several years. But we're in a situation here where we never seem to give a younger goaltender an opportunity. Donnie has played well and always been our safety net." Hatcher -- who will join his brother, 22-year-old defenseman Derian, in Dallas -- had played with the Capitals for all of his 10 NHL seasons since he was their 1984 first-round draft pick.

His contract expired after last season, when his scoring total dipped to 40 points, and he and the Capitals never got close to a new deal. The club offered about $2.5 million annually and Hatcher, who said in September that he wanted out of Washington, sought more than $3 million, perhaps trying to price himself out of town.

"I would say that was part of the strategy, yes," Poile said. "If we would have paid him $3 million, he'd be here today."

Dallas signed Hatcher, 28, to a six-year, $15 million deal -- an average of $2.5 million a season. Hatcher -- who was stripped of the team captaincy last September -- was a restricted free agent, so technically the Capitals traded his rights to the Stars. Dallas negotiated a contract with Hatcher's agent, Ron Salcer, who said that an agreement was struck about 1 a.m. EST yesterday. Then the trade was completed, with the Capitals getting Tinordi and Mrozik, 20, a defenseman drafted by the Stars in 1993 and now playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Hatcher could not immediately be reached in Dallas, but from Los Angeles Salcer said that the money the Capitals and Stars offered "wasn't exactly the same. But it wasn't just the money. He wanted to play in another city. He liked Washington, but he wanted a change."

From Hatcher's home town of Sterling Heights, Mich., his mother, Carol, said that Dallas is "where he really wanted to play. He's ecstatic, like a little kid."

Hatcher is among the Capitals' leaders in many statistical categories. He is third in games played (685), and seventh in points (426), goals (149) and assists (277). He made the all-star team three straight seasons, from 1989-90 to 1991-92. He failed to become an all-star the next season, 1992-93, despite having his best career scoring output -- 79 points, including 34 goals -- and becoming only the seventh defenseman in NHL history to notch at least 30 goals in a season. But he dipped to 16 goals and 40 points last season, although his play did improve after Jim Schoenfeld -- a former defenseman -- replaced the fired Terry Murray on Jan. 27.

As for Tinordi, 6-4 and 213 pounds, the 1992 all-star "is the type of player Jim Schoenfeld wants with the Capitals," Poile said.

Said Schoenfeld: "He can play against any line the opponent would throw at us. He plays the point on the power play, he kills penalties. He's a first-minute-of-the-game guy and a last-minute-of-the-game-guy."

Reached in Dallas, Tinordi said he was a bit shaken about leaving a franchise with which he has grown for seven years, but "to be honest, once I heard it was Washington it was a pretty big relief."

The thin-on-defense Capitals would like to have Tinordi in the lineup for Saturday's opener, but he would like to negotiate a new contract before then. He is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $1.05 million this season, and his agents were quick to get on the phone with Poile last night seeking a new deal.

"Hopefully, they will get a contract right away," said Tinordi, who was not sure when he would arrive in Washington.

In trading Beaupre, the Capitals shed his $925,000 salary, but also the most successful goaltender in franchise history. He has played more games (269) and has more wins (128) than any other Capitals goaltender. Last season, his 14th in the NHL and sixth in Washington, was among his best, with a 2.84 goals-against average.

Said Beaupre after learning he was heading to the Senators, one of the league's worst clubs: "I never thought I'd finish my career in Washington, but I thought I'd start the season here."

So Tabaracci -- often spectacular as a Capital but also injury-prone -- and Kolzig -- a minor league standout -- now move to the fore. Yesterday both paid homage to Beaupre, then looked forward to their added responsibilities.

"Now I'm the oldest goalie in our system, at 26 years old," Tabaracci said. "They wanted to know we're going to be able to handle the job, and that's a great pat on the back to us. I think it says they have enough confidence in us, that they feel we can go through the season."

Notes: The Capitals announced their television schedule yesterday and, as of now, only 24 of 48 regular season games will be broadcast. Their first two games -- Saturday night at Hartford and Tuesday night at Quebec -- will not be shown in this area. Before the lockout, 50 of the Capitals' 84 contests were to be televised. Home Team Sports was to show 30 home games and WDCA-20 was to air 20 road games. Now HTS will televise 14 games at home and four on the road, while WDCA will show only six road games.

Because it was not known when, or if, the season would begin, HTS and WDCA had filled their schedules with other programming. HTS primarily added college basketball; WDCA is now linked with the new United Paramount Network and also added some Washington Bullets road games to its schedule. The Capitals' first locally televised game will be their third of the season, on Wednesday night at Montreal on Channel 20. The club's next two games -- both at home, Jan. 27 vs. the New York Islanders and Jan. 29 vs. Pittsburgh -- will be on HTS. WMAL-630 will air every game on radio. ... The Capitals will practice at 10 a.m. today and Friday at Piney Orchard Ice Arena before heading to Hartford for Saturday's opener.

CAPTION: Capitals get defenseman Mark Tinordi (left), rights to collegian Rick Mrozick for Kevin Hatcher (right). Don Beaupre goes to Ottawa for a fifth-round draft pick.