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Original Issue

Bargains and Busts The best and worst free-agent signings of last off-season, with their contract terms (statistics through Sunday).


G Ed Belfour, Maple Leafs, two years, $13.5 million Toronto
management was pilloried for allowing goalie Curtis Joseph to
sign with the Red Wings, but the 37-year-old Belfour (2.07
goals-against average, .928 save percentage) made everyone forget

C Andrew Cassels, Blue Jackets, one year, $2.5 million Superb
playmaker (27 assists) brought the offense to life--revitalizing
Geoff Sanderson (22 goals) in particular--at a thrift-store

D Philippe Boucher, Stars, four years, $9.3 million Capable,
smooth blueliner had 18 points, was +23 (second in league) and
playing more than 20 minutes a game. He's good insurance if
defensemen Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk become free
agents this summer and Dallas doesn't re-sign them.


C Bobby Holik, Rangers, five years, $45 million; D Darius
Kasparaitis, Rangers, six years, $25.5 million Holik missed 18
games with hip and pelvic ligament tears, and supplied neither
offensive punch (seven goals) nor defensive grit. Hit-happy
Kasparaitis was clueless and --14, third-worst among defensemen.

RW Tony Amonte, Coyotes, four years, $24 million Money's tight
in Phoenix, and making him the club's highest-paid player was
risky. His 11 goals haven't justified the outlay.

C Adam Oates, Mighty Ducks, one year, $3.5 million Signed to rev
up a moribund power play, he missed 15 games with a broken left
hand and had a disappointing one goal and 12 assists with the man
advantage. --Daniel G. Habib

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN HAYES/REUTERS NOSEDIVE Phoenix gave the disappointing Amonte $24 million overfour years.