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Capitals turn over an old Leaf

Five years after he left, Dmitri Khristich is returning to the Washington Capitals. Washington acquired the veteran winger in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. The Leafs will receive Washington's third round pick in the 2001 Entry Draft in the deal.

Khristich, 31, was off to a slow start this season and had been a healthy scratch on occasion. In 27 games with the Maple Leafs, Khristich had three goals and nine points and was plus-eight. His last goal came on November 10 at Carolina, 11 games ago.

The six-foot-two, 190-pound native of Kiev, Ukraine can play either wing. He will likely be deployed as the right wing on the team's top line with left wing Chris Simon and center Adam Oates. The Capitals had been in the market for a decent skating, right-handed shot to play on the first line since the surprise retirement of Stephane Richer early in training camp.

"We were looking for someone who was capable of coming in and performing as a top six forward," says Capitals general manager George McPhee. "We also wanted a right-handed shot who could play on the power play. Khristich is a versatile player. He can play on the power play, he can play either wing, he can play center. He can even play point on the power play if need be."

Khristich is a decent two-way player who can also contribute on both special teams. Two of his three goals this season came on the power play and he also had a shorthanded assist. Khristich has a good scoring touch and scores most of his goals from in tight. It is hoped that he can prosper getting first-line ice time with a center of Oates' caliber. Over the course of his standout career, Oates has done his best setup work alongside right-handed shots who played on the right side (see: Hull, Brett and Neely, Cam).

Khristich is good at playing down low and protecting the puck. He is a good skater who is difficult to knock down because of his excellent balance. One of the raps he has always had has been his lack of production in the postseason. In 72 career playoff games, he has just 15 goals and 40 points. Entering this season, Khristich had averaged 25 goals per 72 games during regular season games in his NHL career.

A two-time 30-goal scorer in the NHL, Khristich has also tallied 29 goals on three occasions and 27 on another. His best NHL season was as a sophomore with Washington in 1991-92. He scored 36 goals and totaled 73 points that season. Fourteen of his goals came on the power play and seven were game-winners.

In five seasons with Washington, Khristich totaled 121 goals, 250 points and was plus-50 in 315 games. Forty-two of his goals with Washington came on the power play. In 707 NHL games, he has scored 240 goals - 88 of them on the power play - and 546 points. He has an impressive career plus/minus rating of plus-110.

Khristich was taken with the team's sixth choice (120th overall) in the 1988 Entry Draft. He was dealt to Los Angeles along with goaltender Byron Dafoe at the conclusion of the 1994-95 season. Washington received two draft picks in that swap and later used them to select Alexandre Volchkov and Justin Davis, neither of whom are currently in the Washington organization.

After two seasons in Los Angeles Khristich was traded - again with Dafoe - to the Boston Bruins. He scored 29 goals in each of his two seasons in Boston and led the NHL with a 20.1 percent shooting efficiency rate in 1998-99. But after that season, Khristich went to arbitration with the Bruins. The arbitrator granted Khristich a salary of $2.8 million for the 1999-2000 season but Boston management opted to walk away from the arbitrator's decision and allowed Khristich to become a restricted free agent. (The Bruins retained the right to match any offer that equaled 80 percent or less of the amount of the arbitrator's award.)

Toronto traded a second round pick in the 2000 Entry Draft to Boston last October to acquire Khristich's rights. The Leafs then signed Khristich to a four-year deal worth $10.29 million (US dollars). Khristich will earn a base salary of $2.5 million for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. The club holds an option for the 2002-03 season at $2.75 million and must pay an additional $300,000 bonus if it exercises that option.

"We have a very hard-working team that has been playing extremely well defensively," says McPhee. "Anyone can use more scoring, and Khristich has been a good scorer in this league for several years. He struggled a little bit in Toronto - for a variety of reasons - but he's been playing better lately. He produced in Washington before and we think he can do it again."

Pending a physical, Khristich is expected to be in uniform for Washington Tuesday night when the Capitals take on the Islanders at Nassau Veterans' Coliseum.

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