Isles, Aucoin: It's free for all
BY ALAN HAHN
August 1, 2005
OTTAWA - Once considered the strength of their lineup, defense is now
a priority for the Islanders as the NHL's free-agency season opens at
noon today. At that time Adrian Aucoin is free to negotiate with all
clubs and the Islanders are free to negotiate with all free agents.
"There's only so much money in the till and there is a salary cap,"
general manager Mike Milbury said. "It will be very interesting to
see how this shakes out in the next couple of days."
Milbury had the past eight days to negotiate exclusively with Aucoin
and his agent, Larry Kelly. So far, Aucoin has declined a four-year
contract offer worth about $13 million that would have kept him on
Long Island until he was 35. In comparison, Sergei Zubov, 35, re-
signed with the Dallas Stars yesterday for $12 million over three
"I made him an offer that was substantial," Milbury said. "If it's
not enough, there can't be much more. There may be room to fiddle
around; we want him back. But I didn't come in and try to low-ball
Aucoin, who owns a home in Garden City, says he wants to keep his
family on Long Island but can't deny himself the chance to determine
his value on the open market. The Montreal Canadiens are believed to
have strong interest, along with Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro endorsed Aucoin yesterday. "The guys
love him," said DiPietro, a restricted free agent who could be signed
to a long-term deal as early as this week. "It's a good mix when you
have a guy who's vocal in the locker room and can back it up on the
ice. You can't deny the type of player he is. He's an all-star
Along with Aucoin, the Islanders need to sign one more defenseman -
figuring Roman Hamrlik won't be back - and the options are plenty.
Brian Leetch leads a list that includes Brian Rafalski and perhaps
Bryan Berard. Adam Foote or Mike Rathje would be options if they want
Center Dave Scatchard and forward Steve Webb also hit the open market
today. Instead of going to free agency for forwards such as Miroslav
Satan or Ziggy Palffy, Milbury said he plans to fill some forward
spots by signing former first-round picks Robert Nilsson and Petteri
The Rangers also are in the market for defensemen, preferably a
skilled one among the group of free agents. Talk of the package deal
of forwards Markus Naslund and Peter Forsberg coming to New York is
thus far baseless but not completely unfounded. According to a person
with knowledge of the situation, at the end of the season in Sweden,
Forsberg suggested to Naslund the idea of teaming up and Naslund
thought he was joking.
It wouldn't be a joke for the NHL, which desperately needs its
flagship U.S. franchise to generate some buzz.
Cable deal for NHL?
The NHL is close to finalizing an agreement with a U.S.-based cable
network, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The
league recently re-opened talks with ESPN, which cut the NHL loose
last spring in favor of poker and eating contests. Comcast also is
planning a bid.
NHL teams begin
shopping at noon
BY JOHN DELLAPINA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
In a long overdue nod to sanity, the NHL moved its starting time for
the opening of the free agent market from midnight to noon.
The question is whether the usual insanity will reign come the
opening of the bidding at midday today or whether the new $39 million
salary cap and $7.8-million individual salary maximum will spark a
league-wide waiting game.
Most general managers admit they have no idea how many of the more
than 200 free agents will be signed in short order.
But the consensus among those team builders and rebuilders is that
they plan to be patient rather than pounce, hoping the glut of
available players will depress the market and create bargains.
"It depends on how the market goes," Rangers GM Glen Sather
said. "You can speculate - we've been speculating for a year. But
(today) speculation will turn into reality. And I don't know whether
stuff is going to happen in the first 24 hours of free agency or
whether it's going to be spread out."
Islanders GM Mike Milbury suspects there will be a bit of both.
"I think most people are uncertain as to what's going to happen come
(today) - I know I am," Milbury said. "And I think we're just going
to prepare and wait and see how it unfolds."
Among the more attractive names available to the highest bidder are
forwards Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund, boyhood friends
interested in playing together for the first time in the NHL.
Throw Mike Modano, Alexei Kovalev, Pavol Demitra, Teemu Selanne and
Ziggy Palffy into the mix and there's loads of firepower to choose
from going into a season in which the league is determined to
encourage offense via a package of rules changes.
Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer figures to be the most coveted of
all the unrestricted free agents and perhaps the only one who could
command the $7.8 million individual cap. But there are plenty of
other top-tier defensemen, such as Brian Leetch, Adam Foote and
Adrian Aucoin of the Islanders and Brian Rafalski of the Devils.
Nikolai Khabibulin, who backstopped Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley
Cup, is the class of the goaltending crop.
"I've said from Day 1 that I think the way to win the Stanley Cup is
to grow your own," Sather said. "But that doesn't mean you can't
surround those guys with good, quality players."