Hunter Signs Long Contract with Capitals

Reportedly for 5 years and $1 Million

By Robert Fachet

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 23, 1987 ; Page B01

The Washington Capitals, who gave up considerable playing talent to acquire center Dale Hunter in June, have followed up that investment by handing Hunter a new, long-term contract.

Hunter, who was entering his option year, is believed to have signed a five-year deal worth more than $1 million. However, neither he nor General Manager David Poile chose to reveal any terms.

"I would prefer not to say how long it's for," said Poile, who never talks publicly about money but usually is willing to specify the length of a pact. Hunter, whose physical condition has been the subject of speculation in the media in his former playground of Quebec, said there were no conditions attached to the contract. "It's a standard contract and it's a fair one," said Hunter, who sat out 34 games last season with a broken ankle.

Regardless of the terms, Hunter is certain to be earning far more money here than he was in Quebec. The heavy taxes in that province have long been a burden for pro athletes and were responsible for the ultimatum Rod Langway issued to the Montreal Canadiens before they sent him here in 1982. "I'll get to keep a lot more here," Hunter said.

Hunter insists he is 100 percent. And his superb play in two exhibitions last weekend back up that claim. "I was really impressed with Dale," said Coach Bryan Murray. "Beyond the goal scoring {one in each game}, he plays with so much intelligence and he has a lot of strength around the net. He puts himself in great position, he reads holes well, he holds the puck until he can do something with it and he always seems to eliminate his man."

Of his ankle, Hunter said, "The pins were removed in May and it's like new now. I think the reason they have doubts in Quebec is because when I came back last year the pins were still in and it was taped up. I couldn't playlike I was before -- I couldn't turn one way -- but I came back anyway because we were in a bad streak and I wanted to do what I could."

Hunter, counted on to provide both leadership and playmaking ability, knows he must produce to make Washington fans forget Gaetan Duchesne and Alan Haworth, who were dealt along with a first-round draft pick to the Nordiques for Hunter and goalie Clint Malarchuk. "There's always pressure when you play this game," Hunter said. "They made a trade for me and Malarchuk and gave up two hockey players and a high draft pick. They have a right to expect a lot from me.

"It's working out pretty well. As far as me providing leadership, that takes time on a new club. The first while you don't know the guys, so you have to get to know them. Then you have to show them what you can do. You have to do something to be a leader, you have to earn it."