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Original Issue

In The Crease

In July the most-sought-after unrestricted free agents will be
forwards Theo Fleury of the Avalanche and Mark Recchi of the
Flyers, but here's another name that should draw a lot of
interest: Andrew Cassels, a 29-year-old Flames center. Cassels
has become a solid two-way player with outstanding hockey sense.
He's good on face-offs (52.1% success rate) and a fine penalty
killer. Many hockey observers think of Cassels as a poor man's
Ron Francis....

When the Red Wings acquired backup goaltender Bill Ranford from
the Lightning for a draft pick last week, they also made a
shrewd financial move. If Detroit decides not to keep Ranford
next season, the Lightning would be on the hook for the
remainder of his contract, which is scheduled to pay him $3.1
million in 1999-2000....

Don't let anybody tell you a fight can't change the complexion
of a game. On March 25, with the Blackhawks leading the Bruins
2-0 in the second period, Boston's Ken Belanger got into a
battle with Chicago's Bob Probert and soundly whipped him.
Minutes later the Bruins rallied for two quick goals to tie the
match, which ended 3-3....

Don't be surprised if Coyotes center Robert Reichel, who was
acquired from the Islanders two weeks ago, threatens to play in
Europe next season unless he gets a contract extension that will
pay him close to $4 million. Reichel's current deal, which
expires after this season, is worth $1.7 million. Paul Kraus,
Reichel's agent, is famous for playing hardball in

The classiest move of the week was made by Capitals general
manager George McPhee, who traded rugged captain Dale Hunter to
the Avalanche. That will allow the 38-year-old Hunter to finish
his career with the same organization he broke in with (the
Avalanche was originally the Quebec Nordiques), and it also will
give him a genuine chance to win his first Stanley Cup....

The Canucks' Adrian Aucoin, who at week's end led NHL defensemen
in goals with 21, is having a career year. By constantly moving
at the point, he opens up shooting lanes; thus he rarely gets
his shots blocked. Also, there are few players who can one-time
the puck as well as Aucoin.