Breaking the Ice
Players getting to know each other
after offseason of many moves
By SHERRY ROSS
Daily News Sports Writer
ohan Hedberg finally has a goalie mask to match his Pittsburgh
Penguins uniform. The Manitoba Moose helmet that inspired a bumper
crop of antlers in the Steel City during the Pens' spring playoff run
has been repainted to help Hedberg blend in with his team. It might
not be so easy to camouflage the other strangers in their new outfits
This summer the NHL was like one bustling city intersection, and
watching the sports highlights in the early part of the season will
result in a lot of rubbernecking. Is that Dominik Hasek in Red Wing
red? Doesn't that look like Jaromir Jagr wearing a Capitals eagle
crest? No. 88 in a Rangers jersey? Robbie Ftorek behind the Boston
Bruins bench? Could that be Ray Bourque in civvies? And where did
Peter Forsberg go to, anyway?
Never before in league history has the balance of power been so
affected by the free agent signings and departures, and trades forced
by contract demands. Some teams were very busy, some stayed out of
the fray. This is who looks to be the winners (see you in the
playoffs) and losers (see you on the golf course) after the last
packing crate has been emptied:
1. Colorado Avalanche
Added: D Todd Gill (free agent).
Lost: D Ray Bourque (retirement); D Jon Klemm (free agent).
Outlook: GM Pierre Lacroix set the stage for the Avs' Cup defense
when he somehow managed to re-sign Hart Trophy winner Joe Sakic, Conn
Smythe winner Patrick Roy, and erstwhile rent-a-defenseman Rob Blake.
Bourque's retirement eliminates the "win one for Ray" emotional drive
of last year's playoffs, and Peter Forsberg's indefinite leave of
absence may leave Colorado without their stud center for most of the
season, if not all.
It will take a full season to find out whether Domink Hasek ...
2. Detroit Red Wings
Added: G Dominik Hasek (trade), LW Luc Robitaille (free agent), RW
Brett Hull (free agent).
Lost: RW Martin Lapointe (free agent).
Outlook: The Red Wings managed to win two Stanley Cups with two non-
elite goalies (Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood). Now in Hasek, they have
a world-class athlete at the position. But Hasek, who will turn 37
midseason, will also be emotionally charged and physically drained by
being asked to help the Czechs win a gold medal at the Olympics. Will
he have enough left for the playoffs?
3. Philadelphia Flyers
Added: C Jeremy Roenick (trade), D Eric Weinrich (free agent), D Jiri
Dopita (trade), D Kim Johnsson (trade), RW Pavel Brendl (trade), LW
Jan Hlavac (trade).
Lost: C Eric Lindros (trade).
Outlook: GM Bob Clarke boosted his team's chances just by ending the
Lindros nightmare. That he did it by acquiring two useful players in
Hlavac and Johnsson and a potential scoring star in Brendl just makes
the Flyers' outlook more positive. Add Roenick to play No. 2 behind
Keith Primeau and a strengthened team defense, and Roman Cechmanek
doesn't have to be the goaltending sensation he was in his first year
to make the Flyers the top team in the East.
4. Dallas Stars
Added: C Pierre Turgeon (free agent), D Jyrki Lumme (free agent), RW
Donald Audette (free agent).
Lost: RW Brett Hull (free agent).
Outlook: The Stars will play in a new building but will be
essentially the same defensive-minded team. Signing Turgeon may free
up another big move for GM Bob Gainey, who has a crowd at center with
Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk already in hand. Goalie Ed Belfour is
going into a contract year; not a situation that all players handle
5. San Jose Sharks
Added: LW Adam Graves (trade), D Jeff Jillson (draft).
Lost: RW Tony Granato (retired).
Outlook: Calder Trophy winner Evgeni Nabokov will have to prove he
was no freshman flash in the pan in goal for the Sharks, who may be
poised to join the West's elite teams. The Sharks boast a defense
unit that is among the best in the league and may only get better if
the rookie Jillson is ready to step in. If Teemu Selanne can come
anywhere near his old scoring form, the Sharks are a team with a lot
of puzzle pieces ready to fit into the right spots.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
Added: RW Alexander Mogilny (free agent), C Robert Reichel (trade),
RW Mikael Renberg (trade), C Travis Green (trade).
Lost: LW Steve Thomas (free agent), RW Sergei Berezin (trade), D
Danny Markov (trade), C Yanic Perreault (free agent).
Outlook: They didn't get Lindros, they didn't get Blake, but the
Maple Leafs were among the busiest shoppers in the East. Reichel and
Renberg are the wild cards, both spending last season in Europe, and
Mogilny probably won't repeat his 47-goal Devils season, but Toronto
is going to give goalie Curtis Joseph plenty of scoring support.
7. St. Louis Blues
Added: C Doug Weight (trade), RW Mike Keane (free agent).
Lost: C Pierre Turgeon (free agent), G Roman Turek (trade).
Outlook: It's almost impossible to make as many moves as the Blues
did and end up standing in just about the same place. The big issue
for St. Louis the past few years was goaltending, and Brent Johnson
is an even shakier prospect than Turek was. Keith Tkachuk failed to
blend in seamlessly after his trade deadline acquisition, and Weight-
for-Turgeon may prove to be a wash.
8. New Jersey Devils
Added: D Tommy Albelin (free agent).
Lost: RW Alexander Mogilny (free agent), D Sean O'Donnell (free
agent), G John Vanbiesbrouck (retirement).
Outlook: Last year's Stanley Cup finalists are crankier about salary
issues than they are about having been a win away from a second title
last June. Workhorse center Bobby Holik had an awakening in his
arbitration and will be playing elsewhere next season, if not
earlier. Patrik Elias is woefully underpaid by league and now team
standards, after linemate Petr Sykora won a major salary reward.
Major cracks and not enough glue to make a championship run.
9. Washington Capitals
... or Jaromir Jagr was the biggest offseason acquisition in the NHL.
Added: RW Jaromir Jagr (trade).
Outlook: The Caps' bold trade for Jagr was accomplished without
subtracting a single player from the probable active roster for this
season, a real coup. Washington's defense is light after the top
three of Brendan Witt, Sergei Gonchar and Calle Johansson. Finding a
solid No. 3 or 4 to play in front of goalie Olaf Kolzig would move
the Caps up in the rankings.
10. Los Angeles Kings
Added: LW Steve Heinze (free agent).
Lost: LW Luc Robitaille (free agent).
Outlook: The Kings lost 37-goal scorer Robitaille and will try to
patch, patch, patch, with Heinze and Ziggy Palffy, Glen Murray and
Bryan Smolinski expected to pick up the slack. The Blake trade netted
Adam Deadmarsh and Aaron Miller. Was goalie Felix Potvin's run after
his arrival from Vancouver a fluke? The defense still has to recover
from the loss of Blake.
11. Buffalo Sabres
Added: C Tim Connolly (trade), LW Slava Kozlov (trade), LW Taylor
Lost: G Dominik Hasek (trade), LW Steve Heinze (free agent), RW
Donald Audette (free agent), C Doug Gilmour (retirement).
Outlook: Goalie Martin Biron will probably be the most analyzed
player at his position this season as he tries to replace Hasek.
Goals have always been hard to come by in Buffalo, and the trio of
newcomers will be asked to contribute their share. Buffalo's defense
is adequate and the team plays a strong system, which will probably
be enough to net a playoff spot.
12. Ottawa Senators
Added: D Zdeno Chara (trade), RW Bill Muckalt (trade), C Jason Spezza
Lost: C Alexei Yashin (trade), RW Rob Zamuner (free agent), D Jason
York (free agent).
Outlook: Spezza, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2001 draft, may make
the team thanks to Yashin's trade to the Islanders. The deal may
actually be a relief to the Senators, and with forwards Daniel
Alfredsson and Marian Hossa re-signed, Ottawa can concentrate on
hockey instead of contract hassles.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins
Added: RW Stephane Richer (free agent), C Kris Beech (trade), D
Brooks Orpik (draft).
Lost: RW Jaromir Jagr (trade), D Bob Boughner (free agent).
Outlook: Owner/center Mario Lemieux will cut back on his road
schedule this season, concentrating more on making the Penguins a
playoff threat than saving the NHL. Kids could play a major factor in
a Pittsburgh revival, and Hedberg will have to maintain the form that
took Pittsburgh to the conference final.
14. Vancouver Canucks
Added: D Bryan Allen (draft).
Outlook: The Canucks endured enough tumultous seasons (see: the Mark
Messier years), so this quiet summer must have come as some relief.
Big question marks still abound, however, most of them centered on
right wing Markus Naslund's recovery from a broken leg and surgery,
and the goaltending of Dan Cloutier.
15. Edmonton Oilers
Added: C Marty Reasoner (trade), LW Jochen Hecht (trade).
Lost: C Doug Weight (trade), D Igor Ulanov (free agent).
Outlook: The Weight-loss program failed to result in much improvement
for the Oilers, who have staunchly carried the banner for small-
market teams. But the Oilers lack the depth (and money) to compete
with the other powerful, wealthy teams in the West.
16. New York Islanders
Added: C Alexei Yashin (trade), C Mike Peca (trade), G Chris Osgood
(waivers), G Garth Snow (free agent), D Adrian Aucoin (trade).
Lost: C Tim Connolly (trade), D Zdeno Chara (trade), LW Taylor Pyatt
(trade), D Garry Galley (retirement).
Outlook: The Islanders haven't appeared in the postseason since 1994,
but there should be enough talent with the additions of Peca, Yashin
and Osgood to make the difference this season. There are still some
holes on defense, but there is finally hope at the Coliseum, which
may again become a tough building for the opponent to win points in.
Postcards From the Edge
Battles for the last playoff spots in both conferences came down to
the final week of the regular season, and it should be the same in
2002. Making the strongest bids in the East will be the Hurricanes,
Panthers and Rangers.
Carolina didn't solve its goaltending weakness (Arturs Irbe is the
No. 1) by signing Tom Barrasso, who has been out of hockey for a
year, and will rely on a solid nucleus of forwards (Rod Brind'Amour,
Sami Kapanen, Jeff O'Neill and Shane Willis) to do the dirty
work. ... Florida will probably have one of the most exciting teams
to watch after acquiring Valeri Bure from Calgary to team up with big
brother Pavel, but the 'Cats don't have much in the way of defensive
help for young goaltending star Roberto Luongo. ... The Rangers
continue to be a crazy quilt of clashing fabric, and the offseason
addition of Lindros do little to provide the desperately needed
defensive backing that kept the Rangers out of the playoffs for the
fourth consecutive season.
Boston made a number of strange offseason signings, including
Lapointe and former Devils coach Ftorek, but it will have to resolve
the Jason Allison trade request before the season gets too old. ...
Atlanta has been patiently building for a playoff run, and while it's
too soon to be a threat, the Thrashers will have two blue-chip
rookies in Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley to brighten things up.
Montreal captain Saku Koivu is battling a form of cancer that will
keep him out of the lineup and will prevent the Habs from much hope
of improvement. ... Tampa Bay has at least stabilized its goaltending
with the March trade for Nikolai Khabibulin, but a contract hassle
with top forward Vincent Lecavalier doesn't bode well for a strong
In the West, Nashville will make a run for its first playoff spot,
but grit alone won't be able to compensate for a lack of scoring
talent. ... Phoenix is starting from scratch with new GM Mike Barnett
and a slew of low-priced players obtained in the Keith Tkachuk and
Khabibulin deals. ... Coach Bryan Murray arrives in Anaheim, which
continues to be one of the least promising franchises.
Chicago holds the longest non-Cup streak in the league (since 1961),
and that drought will stay alive despite the intensity of new coach
Brian Sutter. ... Calgary made some aggressive moves, adding goalie
Turek and Rob Niedermayer, but the Flames don't look like much of a
playoff threat in a tough conference. ... Minnesota played solid
first-year hockey under coach Jacques Lemaire, but not much
improvement can be expected yet. ... Columbus boasts the early Calder
Trophy favorite in defenseman Rostislav Klesla.