- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. If you're unfamiliar with players like Ilya Kovalchuk and Stanislav Tchistov, not to worry. And if you think Stephen Weiss is a figure skater from Fairfax, he's not but that's OK, too.

But if you recognize names like Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and Eric Lindros, this could be the amateur draft you've been waiting for. None has been an amateur for a long time and none will be drafted, but their names might stand out more this weekend than the top picks coming out of tomorrow's depth draft.

As management tries to bring soaring salaries under control, a flurry of activity is expected before the conclusion of the draft Sunday, which will do nothing to stop the escalation. None of the youngsters to be drafted is expected to offer immediate help, but the cast of restricted and unrestricted free agents could change the complexion of competition in many rinks.

The signal that cost control hasn't come into vogue went out a week ago when Philadelphia signed left wing John LeClair (16 games last season, seven goals) to a five-year deal averaging $9 million a season. LeClair is coming off back surgery, and it is unsure if it was completely successful.

Philadelphia was playing a major part in another deal, one previously declared dead and now may be dead again. The Flyers had renewed their talks with Toronto about dealing the concussion-prone Lindros, apparently meaning the scope of the center's search for a team beyond his hometown Maple Leafs had fallen through none was willing to take a chance on a player many believe is one hit away from medical retirement and can't be insured.

But yesterday Flyers GM Bobby Clarke said eight months of negotiations with Toronto had been fruitless and had broken off. Clarke has said this before, and on more than one occasion. Stay tuned.

Lindros sat out for a complete season after suffering his sixth concussion in a year during the 1999 playoffs. He wanted to come back and had a contract worked out with Toronto for $36 million over four years, but the Leafs wouldn't meet the Flyers' demands.

After renting Keith Tkachuk from Phoenix and getting all its superstar defensemen back from injury, St. Louis thought it had bought the road to the Stanley Cup finals. But goalie Roman Turek blew up, let in 17 goals in the five conference final games against Colorado, and the hunt for goaltending began.

The Blues are reported to be closing in on Roy, who won his third Conn Smythe Trophy just a few weeks back for Colorado, or Hasek, the Buffalo mainstay who has been asked politely to accept less than the $9 million his option calls for. Roy made $7.5 million last season, a year during which he became the all-time winningest goalie, and he feels he deserves a raise, too.

If the Avalanche decide to let Roy go, that means it will be easier to find the money to pay two other free agents, Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, assuming Ray Bourque retires. Also out there are among the unrestricteds are Luc Robitaille, Jason York, Jeremy Roenick, Pierre Turgeon and Yanic Perreault plus Adam Oates and Ulf Dahlen of the Washington Capitals.

There is a gold mine among the restricted free agents, too. Ottawa, for instance, has to sign Daniel Alfredsson, Magnus Arvedsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Lalime, Chris Phillips, Wade Redden and Alexei Yashin this summer, a pretty tall order and a pretty decent start for a hockey team if a club had the money to sign all of them.

Boston has to settle with Jason Allison and Bill Guerin, among others. Buffalo has not resolved the Mike Peca problem. Edmonton probably can't afford Doug Weight if the center opts for arbitration. And Washington could rectify a horrible drafting error by going after New Jersey's Petr Sykora, a player the Caps passed on in 1995 to grab Brad Church with the 17th pick overall.

Then there is Pittsburgh's problem. Jaromir Jagr has won the scoring title four straight times but the Penguins can't afford him and everybody else. The problem is, Jagr will make $10.7 million next season and there are few takers in that neighborhood.

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