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Original Issue

In The Crease

The Penguins, who are in bankruptcy, will face more tough
financial decisions after the season. With the contracts of key
players like defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and forwards Martin
Straka, Stu Barnes, Alexei Kovalev and Robert Lang expiring in
June, Pittsburgh must decide how many of these players it can
afford to keep. Because Jaromir Jagr's salary in 1999-2000 goes
to $8.9 million from $5 million, expect Penguins general manager
Craig Patrick to trade pricey defensemen Kevin Hatcher, who is
making $2.9 million this season and is scheduled to earn $3.1
million next year....

Thanks in large part to superscout David Conte, the Devils have
more of their own draft choices in their lineup (16) than any
other team....

Would the Canadiens, who were 8-14-3 and in last place in the
Northeast Division through Sunday, be struggling as badly if
their backliners included Chris Chelios, Eric Desjardins,
Mathieu Schneider, Petr Svoboda, Jyrki Lumme, Lyle Odelein,
Craig Ludwig and Peter Popovic? All these defensemen were
drafted by Montreal and subsequently traded, most for little

The Kings, who have been hit hard by injuries (114 man-games
lost), miss 21-year-old defenseman Aki-Petteri Berg, who is
playing for TPS Turku of the Finnish Elite league. Berg, Los
Angeles' first-round draft choice in 1995, returned to his
homeland in October after rejecting the Kings' offer of $650,000
for this season. You can't blame him, considering the salaries
of comparable backliners Bryan McCabe ($1.4 million) of the
Canucks and Kyle McLaren ($1.2 million) of the Bruins....

The Red Wings have begun talks with captain Steve Yzerman on a
contract extension. Unlike many stars, Yzerman doesn't have any
incentive clauses in his deal for things like goals or points....

The Blackhawks are spending $750,000 on tough guys Dennis Bonvie
and Ryan Vandenbussche, both of whom have been demoted to the
minor leagues. Not many teams can afford a luxury like that.