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Penguins

Trade deadline is fast-approaching

| Sunday, March 10, 2002

The countdown is on to the March 19 trade deadline and you can expect the rumor mill to be working in overdrive as deadline day approaches.

The most marketable commodities are goaltenders, and there's no shortage of netminders available at the right price. And the price might be a lot cheaper than you think.

Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford made the first move last week when he acquired Kevin Weekes from Tampa Bay. Three's a crowd, and that's exactly what the Hurricanes have in goal with Arturs Irbe, Tom Barrasso and Weekes currently with the club. Look for Barrasso to be on the move and the Hurricanes might not get much in return.

There is little doubt that the Dallas Stars would like to unload Ed Belfour, especially since he can become an unrestricted free agent in July. Ditto for the New York Rangers and veteran goalie Mike Richter. Boston's Byron Dafoe and Toronto's Curtis Joseph — who is out with a broken hand — are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer, but it's extremely doubtful either of them will be moved.

You also can throw in players such as Steve Shields of Anaheim, Ron Tugnutt of Columbus, Mike Vernon of the Calgary Flames and Trevor Kidd of Florida as goalies available for the right price. You'd think the St. Louis Blues would benefit from an upgrade in net, but general manager Larry Pleau says he'll stick with Brent Johnson and Freddie Brathwaite.

"It is no concern at all," Pleau said about going into a drive for a playoff berth with an unseasoned Johnson. "We made decisions last year (trading Roman Turek) and we have kept with our decisions.

"But that does not mean we will not explore situations if they are right for us. We are ready to move forward with our goaltending and we have been comfortable with it all year. You have to get experience somehow and if we do something on the goaltending, how much further are we ahead• Then, we are just delaying the progress of the players that we have."

The Toronto Maple Leafs are exploring whether to add a goalie while Joseph is on the mend, and the decision-making will be speeded up depending on how the Leafs fare this week in games against Philadelphia and Boston.

Besides the goalies, there will be much speculation about whether Tony Amonte of Chicago and Bill Guerin of the Bruins will be moved. Amonte and Guerin are poised to become unrestricted free agents in July, and it's expected that the Blackhawks and Bruins will keep them rather the trade them because of their importance to their respective clubs.

Teemu Selanne of the San Jose Sharks, who is another potential unrestricted free agent in July, is not getting along with coach Darryl Sutter and he might be on the move.

The other issue involves the contract status of Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, who is presumed to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. But a battle is brewing over Kasparaitis' contract status and it is not clear when the issue will be resolved.

The player, his agent and the National Hockey League Players' Association believes he will be a free agent on July 1. But the NHL and the Penguins contend otherwise, and it's expected the matter will end up in the hands of an arbitrator.

This mess makes it hard for Penguins GM Craig Patrick to trade Kasparaitis. Then again, Patrick has said he has no interest in dealing the defenseman.

WHY DINO, WHY?

From the hard to believe desk: Dino Ciccarelli is thinking of making a comeback.

Ciccarelli, 42, who scored 608 goals during his 19-year career, retired in 1999 because of a bad back. But a Pittsburgh doctor pinpointed the problem, and he's aiming to return to the NHL.

"It was simple," Ciccarelli says. "I couldn't skate because nobody could find a bone spur the size of a golf ball in my back. That's because it was in my hip. It was wedged in there. There was no way I could skate without it flaring up."

Ciccarelli had surgery three months ago, and during the Olympic break, he skated without pain and helped the undermanned Detroit Red Wings — who had 11 players at Salt Lake — go through a series of practices.

"He looked great," Detroit's Darren McCarty said. "He was his normal, spunky self. He didn't look out of place one bit."

Now, Ciccarelli is looking for a team to hire him, and he's apparently talking to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But the burning question is, why?

ALEX IS HURTING

Don't look for Toronto's Alexander Mogilny to return to the lineup anytime soon. He has been sidelined for more than a month with a cracked vertebra and still suffers pain when performing the most mundane of tasks.

"Anything I do, like putting my socks on, I have tremendous problems," he said. "Just bending over … it has been hard for me to come back."

GLAD TO BE BACK

Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray was back behind the bench Thursday night for the first time since he suffered serious injuries in a car accident three weeks ago.

Murray was driving his truck when it hit a piece of black ice near his home in Minnesota and rolled down an embankment. He suffered a concussion, four broken ribs, a separated left shoulder and numerous cuts and scrapes.

Murray's return to the team was twice delayed when he experienced symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

Doctors told him it could be several more weeks before he felt well enough to resume his coaching duties, but he was cleared to return to work on Wednesday and he joined the Kings in Nashville.

"If I was a player, I'm sure I wouldn't be playing, but nobody is going to hit me or check me or anything like that," Murray said.

IN MOURNING

Toronto captain Mats Sundin and Bryan Fogarty were both first-round picks by the Quebec Nordiques in the late 1980s. Sundin and Fogarty were teammates with Quebec from 1990-92, and Sundin was shocked to hear that his former teammate died in Florida earlier this week.

"It was shocking (to hear of Fogarty's death)," Sundin said. "I played with John Kordic (who died in 1992) too and they roomed together for a while in Quebec. It is really sad to see what has gone on, and my condolences go to (Fogarty's) family."

Fogarty, 32, died in Myrtle Beach, S.C., while visiting friends. A coroner said it appeared to be a "cardiac death."

WON'T MOP UP

Minnesota forward Darby Hendrickson was recalling last week how when he was in junior high, he had friends who would get tickets to North Stars games as part of the deal for scrubbing down the arena after NHL games.

Hendrickson said he wound up seeing about 30 games a season for a couple of years, and he did it without having to mop up.

"I went in on their coat tails," he said. "We would get into a lot of games that way. I never used a mop."

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