Washington Wizards first-round draft pick Richard Hamilton is expected to sign a three-year, $5.9 million contract no later than next week, according to his Washington-based agent, Bill Strickland.

"I don't anticipate any problems," Strickland said.

Mitch Richmond, who is penciled in to start ahead of Hamilton at shooting guard, is scheduled to sign his four-year, $40 million contract today. Richmond agreed to terms last week.

Hamilton's signing has been delayed, at least in part, because he has been searching for a new agent since firing Al Irby nearly a month ago. Hamilton, selected seventh overall out of the University of Connecticut, hired Strickland last week.

Strickland said he has been in contact with Wizards management and that negotiations have resumed.

Before firing Irby, Hamilton agreed to a three-year, $5.9 million contract. The Wizards can exercise options to retain Hamilton for a total of five years.

Hamilton and former Maryland guard Steve Francis, who was drafted second overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies, are the only players among the top seven draft choices who remain unsigned.

Francis's name has surfaced in trade talks recently, according to published reports. Francis, who expressed displeasure about being selected by the Grizzlies shortly after being drafted, might be dealt to Detroit as part of a seven-player trade involving guard Jerry Stackhouse and forward Loy Vaught of the Pistons, according to reports.

As for Hamilton, he has spent the past few weeks at U-Conn. rehabilitating his right ankle, which he sprained while training with the U.S. Olympic qualifying team in Puerto Rico. Once the season begins, the Wizards hope he can provide offense in relief of Richmond.

Richmond, who just returned from a family vacation, will finalize the contract that will make him the highest-paid shooting guard in the NBA next season. The potential four-year deal could pay Richmond up to $40 million should he attain certain incentives.

The Wizards also hold two buyout options after the second and third years of the contract. If Richmond fails to meet the agreed-upon criteria in his second season, Washington could buy him out for $10 million. If he plays a third season, the Wizards could buy him out of a fourth season for slightly more than $5 million.

In other news, Norm Nixon, the agent for free agent forward Samaki Walker, said he spoke with the Wizards last Friday about Walker possibly joining the team for its $2 million exception. However, Nixon said he and Walker will explore some sign-and-trade possibilities before accepting a contract starting at $2 million.

The Wizards, who are in search of a starting power forward, have expressed interest in free agents Chucky Brown, Corie Blount, Dickey Simpkins, Grant Long and Walker.

The Wizards can only offer the $2 million exception to free agents who did not play for them last season. The league allows the exception for teams over the salary cap and/or minimum salaried contracts, which are based on a player's NBA tenure.