The Washington Capitals signed top prospect Yogi Svejkovsky to a three-year contract yesterday, but were disappointed that a trade of center Michal Pivonka to Tampa Bay fell through.

Svejkovsky, 22, was limited by injuries to 25 games last season, but the right wing scored 50 goals in 70 minor league games. His base salary will be $550,000 this season, $600,000 the next and $650,000 in the third. The deal also includes numerous incentives.

"I think it's a fair deal for both sides," Svejkovsky said. "Last year was very hard with the injuries, but I am ready for this year. On this team there's always a lot of expectations about the young guys. I really think it's time for us to step up and help the team win some games."

It was imperative for the Capitals to sign Svejkovsky to a long-term deal, something they hope to do with all of their young players.

"That's what you have to do with guys coming out of their entry-level contracts," General Manager George McPhee said. "Now we've got him locked in for three years and we'll see what he can do at this level. If they become good players in that time frame, everything will work for them from there."

Svejkovsky's signing leaves Richard Zednik, another talented player, as the Capitals' only unsigned restricted free agent. Negotiations with Zednik should intensify once his immigration problems are resolved.

Zednik remains in the Czech Republic awaiting clearance to return to the United States. Immigrations officials have twice mailed documents to a consulate in the Czech Republic, and both times were told the packages were lost.

Pivonka, 32, the Capitals' all-time assists leader, will not attend the team's training camp. A deal with Tampa Bay appeared imminent over the weekend but the Lightning withdrew because of contract issues.

Pivonka, who cleared waivers last season, will make $1.2 million this season and McPhee said the Capitals will continue to seek a trade. If they're unable to make a trade, Pivonka would be assigned to the minor leagues.

Old Man Hunter

Dale Hunter made his training camp debut yesterday, but for the first time in 19 years it did not include donning an NHL sweater. Hunter, a longtime Capital who retired this summer, is working with the Capitals' young prospects in the player development department.

"It's a weird feeling being here and not getting dressed with the guys," said Hunter. "I haven't missed a training camp in a long time."