Washington Capitals defenseman Brendan Witt has asked to be traded to a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup next season, Witt said yesterday.
Witt, a veteran of nine seasons in Washington, figures to be one of the Capitals' top players on the blueline. But with the team in a rebuilding process that could take years, Witt, 30, said he wants to win now and would like to be moved by the time training camp begins in mid-September.
Witt, coincidentally, went public with his trade request on the same day majority owner Ted Leonsis explained to fans his reasoning for the Capitals' youth movement, and announced a rebate to season ticket holders, in a newsletter posted on the team's Web site.
Whether Capitals General Manager George McPhee plans to grant the rugged defenseman's request remains to be seen. McPhee did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.
"I'd like to be dealt, sooner rather than later," Witt said from his Florida home. "I'd like to go win. I want to win a Stanley Cup. That's my dream."
"I'm probably going to get dealt anyway, since I'm going to be [an unrestricted free agent] next year," he added.
Witt signed the Capitals' qualifying offer last week -- a one-year contract worth $1,672,000 -- which was last year's salary minus the 24 percent rollback the players' union agreed to in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Witt was awarded a raise in arbitration last August and would have earned $2.2 million in 2004-05. (Players were not paid because a lockout erased the season.)
Witt said he does not have a preference about where he would like to be traded, so long as that team is expected to contend.
If the Capitals do not trade him, Witt said he will report for training camp. If he remains a Capital, he will anchor a group of unproven prospects that includes Steve Eminger (58 NHL games), Josef Boumedienne (47), Shaone Morrisonn (44) and Nolan Yonkman (12). McPhee is expected to acquire at least one more veteran defenseman through free agency.
"I've played hard and through injuries for them," Witt said. "I hope they will trade me before camp. But if that doesn't happen, I'm going to show up and play my heart out."
Witt has played in 568 NHL games, all with the Capitals, who drafted him 11th overall in 1993. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Saskatchewan native had 2 goals, 10 assists and 123 penalty minutes in 72 games in 2003-04.
In his newsletter, Leonsis wrote: "As far as free agency is concerned, I will admit that we made offers to several players who would have helped our team in the short term. We were competitive as it related to salary, but we lost out because of the term of the contract. We are prepared to sign the right players, but we have to factor in their age, salary and length of the contract. We didn't want to be saddled with longer term contracts to older players.
"We have to allow our young players an opportunity to play and progress," Leonsis continued. "For some that opportunity will be this year. For others, it will be next year or the year after."
Leonsis also wrote that the Capitals, even with a $25 million payroll (the salary cap ceiling is $39 million), will lose money next season, although it's not anticipated to be a significant amount.
"As a league, we will have less TV revenue, and locally I don't think we can expect to increase our ticket revenue," Leonsis wrote. "However, our ticket prices are going down even more. That price reduction may help attendance, but we don't anticipate it helping overall revenues."
Leonsis's newsletter also said that season ticket holders will receive a 5 percent rebate this year on season and partial plans that are renewed or purchased before Sept. 1. The team reduced season ticket prices by an average of 11 percent at the end of the 2003-04 season. Season ticket holders will also get two free tickets based on availability for the Capitals season opener Oct. 5 against Columbus at MCI Center.
Capitals Notes: The Capitals agreed to terms with free agent wingers Ben Clymer and Miroslav Zalesak yesterday. Clymer, a 27-year-old left wing, scored two goals and had eight assists for Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay in 2003-04. Zalesak, meantime, will be seeking his first full-time job in the NHL. The 25-year-old Czech-born right wing (6 feet, 200 pounds) has played in 12 NHL games since being drafted in the fourth round by San Jose in 1998.