Publish date:

In The Crease

On the heels of last week's decision by the NHL to fine the
Blues $1.5 million and a first-round draft choice for tampering
with free agent Scott Stevens in 1994, don't be surprised if the
league investigates the '97 free-agent signing of goalie Ed
Belfour by the Stars. Observers have cast a suspicious eye on
Dallas because Belfour agreed to a deal only one day after the
signing period began....

Look also for the league to take action to keep a team from
gaining an unfair negotiating advantage over other teams, as the
Sharks did last summer when they traded a ninth-round draft pick
to the Blackhawks for defenseman Gary Suter, a free agent-to-be.
By acquiring Suter four days before the free-agency period
began, San Jose general manager Dean Lombardi got exclusive
negotiating rights to Suter for those four days and worked out a
three-year, $10 million deal with him....

Score one for Maple Leafs associate general manager Mike Smith,
who obtained gifted 21-year-old defenseman Bryan Berard from the
Islanders for disgruntled goaltender Felix Potvin. Smith had
been ripped by the media for not quickly unloading Potvin, but
the Leafs ended up getting maximum value for him....

Look for a deal between the Canucks and Capitals involving
Vancouver All-Star Pavel Bure. Going to the Canucks would be
offensive defenseman Sergei Gonchar, talented forward Richard
Zednik and a first-round draft pick. If the trade goes through,
Washington may pair Bure with explosive winger Peter Bondra....

Give credit to general manager David Poile of the expansion
Predators who has put together a small, quick team built to play
in the run-and-gun Western Conference. At week's end Nashville
was 12-13-2 in that conference but 2-8-2 against the more
physical Eastern teams....

After a slow start, Red Wings center Sergei Fedorov is showing
signs of breaking out. His practice habits have improved, and
Detroit is expecting big numbers from him down the stretch. The
Wings should be more concerned about forward Brendan Shanahan.
He doesn't fight his way into scoring position the way he used
to, and observers are wondering if he still has the old
competitive fire.