- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

If reports surfacing in New York yesterday are accurate, then Eric Lindros’ days as a Ranger are indeed numbered. But it is doubtful the center will be headed for Washington to join the Capitals.

Does that mean that speculation is dead that Washington right wing Jaromir Jagr would end up on Broadway before the start of the 2003-04 season? Not necessarily. In fact, the chances of that happening might have improved yesterday.

According to NHL sources, the Rangers’ hierarchy is debating whether to expose Lindros to waivers, meaning he would be available to any team wishing to claim him for the $125 waiver price (and his salary, also, $9.3million if he stays healthy and plays at least 75 games).

This possibility surfaced after apparent efforts to have the center restructure his contract failed. According to sources, if Lindros passes through waivers, which is all but a foregone conclusion, the Rangers would buy out the last year of his contract, costing the team $2.2million.

Another development yesterday that may enhance a Jagr move to New York was the decision by Rangers general manager Glen Sather to name himself as the club’s coach, removing the interim tag that had been there since he fired Bryan Trottier in the middle of last season. Sather reportedly offered the job to Jim Schoenfeld, Scotty Bowman and Larry Robinson but was turned down by all three.

Sather, a struggling part-timer during his playing days in the NHL, has long been an advocate of the smoother skating, free-flowing European style of hockey, as evidenced by his days of glory coaching the Oilers in Edmonton. Jagr fits that style; Lindros does not.

Start crunching the numbers. Last season the 30-year-old had 19 goals and 53 points in 81 games, earning $9.3million and did not go to the playoffs. Jagr had 36 goals and 77 points in 75 games, earning $11million and did go to the playoffs, albeit not very far. Those numbers apparently are being scrutinized by people in New York City, who are also aware of marketing potential.

Meanwhile, the first day of free agency passed quietly, more or less, although the Rangers and Philadelphia created some confusion late Monday night that might pay off for Edmonton, San Jose and Washington. Three players were traded in spirit only, taking advantage of a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement.

The Rangers “traded” the rights to unrestricted free agent defenseman Brian Leetch to Edmonton for a backup goalie and a low draft pick, the Oilers knowing in advance that hours later Leetch would be free to do as he pleases, which is probably to re-sign with New York. However, because of the loophole the Oilers will receive a compensatory draft pick, possibly as high as a second rounder, because they were denied Leetch’s services.

Similarly, the Rangers “traded” the rights to center Mark Messier to the Sharks with San Jose expecting a compensatory pick in return. Messier will play for the Rangers next season if he doesn’t retire.

And late Monday night the Flyers “traded” free agent defenseman Dmitry Yushkevich to the Caps for a seventh round pick. If all goes according to plan, the Caps will get back a compensatory pick higher than the seventh choice they gave up.

The Flyers yesterday plugged the hole in their goaltending corps by signing free agent Jeff Hackett, who had been traded to Boston by Montreal last season. Hackett is expected to be the starter in place of the departed Roman Cechmanek.

Detroit is a spot where some goaltending developments are soon expected. The Wings picked up the option on “retired” Dominik Hasek and also have Curtis Joseph on the payroll, with both scheduled to make $8million next season. Joseph is probably headed for the Rangers, with New York possibly sending Mike Dunham to the Bruins to create some room for Joseph.

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