Months after trading away most of their marquee players in an effort to cut costs, the Washington Capitals are tightening their belts in hockey operations and other departments, where employees who have recently resigned or been dismissed won't be immediately replaced.

Since the end of the regular season, four people in hockey operations have been dismissed, and at least seven people in other departments -- one each in marketing and the game night staff, four in ticket sales and another in public relations -- have resigned, at least in part, in anticipation of an expected owners' lockout when the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association expires in September.

Some of the positions in hockey operations have been eliminated, while many of the other positions will not be filled until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place, General Manager George McPhee said yesterday.

"Whether there is a work stoppage or not, coaching staffs decide to do things in different ways," McPhee said, referring to Coach Glen Hanlon, who took over the team in December after Bruce Cassidy was fired. "This is all a part of the restructuring of [hockey operations]."

McPhee said he did not envision making any more cutbacks to the hockey operations staff.

The Capitals are not the only team trimming staff, according to an NHL official who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the subject. Even as the Stanley Cup playoffs are being contested, many teams, including Carolina, Dallas, Florida, Edmonton, St. Loius, Anaheim and Phoenix, have either laid off -- or are planning to -- a substantial number of employees, he said.

Carolina's staff has been hardest hit, with 15 percent of the Hurricanes' full-time staff getting laid off three days after the regular season ended, according to a report in the Raleigh News & Observer.

In the event of a protracted lockout, most teams are expected to use layoffs as a way to save money, the NHL official said.

One Eastern Conference team official said he sent out a notice to other teams seeking to fill a low-level front-office position and was astounded by the number of league veterans, who were either worried about their current job security or had just been laid off, expressed interest.

"It was kind of sad," the official said.

The NHL's contract with the players' union expires Sept. 15, and the sides remain far apart on most of the key issues. Owners are adamant about a hard salary cap, which players strongly oppose.

In Washington's hockey operations department, those dismissed include Archie Henderson, the team's longest tenured NHL scout, Todd Warren, the director of team services who was with the Capitals for 14 years, Ted Dent, the video coordinator, and Jim Fox, the strength and conditioning coach. In October, Declan Bolger, the Capitals' fourth-highest-ranking front-office official, left for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and also has not been replaced.