The upheaval in the Washington Capitals' front office continued this week when the team dismissed director of hockey operations Shawn Simpson, one of the top assistants to General Manager George McPhee with regard to player and personnel matters.

Simpson's departure comes a month after the Capitals fired four members of their hockey operations staff and just days before one of the most important weekends in franchise history -- the NHL entry draft on Saturday and Sunday in Raleigh, N.C., where Washington will make three selections in the first round, including the No. 1 overall choice.

Simpson oversaw the club's developmental programs and worked closely with the team's professional and amateur scouts. He was also the general manager of the team's top minor league affiliate, the Portland Pirates of the AHL, and he scouted NHL games.

Simpson, 35, was told Monday that his contract, which expires at the end of the month, would not be renewed. He served in that capacity for seven seasons.

"It's never easy when these things happen, but it's time for us to move on," Simpson said yesterday. "I am very thankful for the opportunity I was given."

McPhee declined to comment.

Simpson's departure comes during a time of transition for the Capitals and uncertainty for the league. The Capitals are rebuilding and the NHL's contract with the players' union expires Sept. 15. With the sides remaining far apart on the key issue of controlling players' salaries, an owners' lockout is expected to wipe out some, if not all, of next season.

In May, the Capitals, like many other NHL teams, began preparing for the likelihood of a work stoppage by cutting their staff. They fired Archie Henderson, the team's longest-tenured professional scout; Todd Warren, the director of team services who was with the organization for 14 years; video coordinator Ted Dent; and strength and conditioning coach Jim Fox.

Drafted by the Capitals 60th overall in 1986, Simpson, a goaltender, played for the minor league Baltimore Skipjacks from 1988 to '91. Upon retiring as a player, Simpson filled several roles within the organization, ranging from television and radio to scouting to his most recent job.