On the day Jeff Friesen was welcomed by the Washington Capitals, six others were trimmed from the training camp roster.
Forwards Eric Fehr, Jared Aulin, Chris Bourque, Jakub Klepis and Dave Steckel were all assigned to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, the Capitals' minor league affiliate. And defenseman Jeff Schultz was returned to his junior team, the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
Although none of the demotions were surprising, one keeper was: 19-year-old defenseman Mike Green. The 2004 first-round draft pick has impressed coaches with his poise, and has been rewarded with an additional week to prove he deserves to be an NHL rookie.
"The younger players are all now projected to play in the NHL, and that's good," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "Bourque and Fehr and certainly Schultz. They are going to go down and get some seasoning. For Schultz it will be next year. For Bourque and Fehr, it's work hard, be one of the best players [in Hershey] and come up and play."
The cuts left the Capitals with 26 players (14 forwards, 10 defensemen and 2 goalies) on the ice for Tuesday's practice. That number does not include forwards Alexander Semin and Petr Sykora, neither of whom have reported to training camp, or injured defenseman Ivan Majesky. The Capitals continue to contemplate legal action against Semin, who has ignored his NHL obligations twice in a year; Sykora, meantime, has been threatened with a lawsuit by his Czech team if he leaves.
Just in case one or both do not play in Washington this season, General Manager George McPhee traded for Friesen, who skated with his new team for the first time Tuesday morning. The 29-year-old left wing was acquired from New Jersey for a conditional draft pick in 2006 on Monday.
The Devils squeezed under the NHL's new $39 million salary cap by unloading Friesen's $2.28 million contract, which expires after this season. And Washington got the proven goal scorer it so desperately needed.
"I was planning to be" in New Jersey, said Friesen, who has scored at least 20 goals five times during his 10-year NHL career and is one of the league's fastest skaters. "But the writing was on the wall. When you're asked the question about being traded all the time, it gets old. It's nice not to have to hear those questions anymore and focus on the season.
"Obviously, Washington is a different type of team. In New Jersey, you know where everyone is fitting. You know it's not going to be a ton of minutes. It's going to be different here. I'm not going to try be a player that I'm not. I'm going to work hard and try to help this team move in the right direction and help them in a positive way."
Hanlon sees more than speed and scoring in Friesen. He also sees leadership. Friesen helped lead New Jersey to the Stanley Cup in 2003.
"That's another player who has a Stanley Cup ring," Hanlon said. "I don't care what anybody says, once you've gone that far and won it, you bring something to your room that we didn't have in the past. And now we've got two champions in Ben Clymer [Tampa Bay in 2004] and Friesen."
Capitals Notes: With the training camp roster paired to a manageable number of players, Hanlon has begun to tinker with forward line combinations. The most interesting combo Tuesday had Alexander Ovechkin on the left, Dainius Zubrus in the middle and Jeff Halpern on the right. Halpern has been listed as a center his entire career; Zubrus can play all three positions, but is listed a right wing. The Capitals' roster must be reduced to 23 players by Oct. 5.