MARCH MADNESS
A pre-deadline trading frenzy looms as Stanley Cup contenders
load up

This is the time of year when NHL general managers trade with an
eye toward silver futures. For playoff-bound clubs, a shrewd
short-term investment before the league's March 14 trading
deadline could yield the ultimate return--the Stanley Cup. Last
year 32 trades were made in the week leading up to the deadline,
and this season expect similar volume. With that in mind here
are some blue-chip commodities that could be moved.

--Canucks C Mark Messier

Why him: If rebuilding Vancouver keeps the 39-year-old Messier
it will have to pay him $6 million next season or buy him out
for $2 million.

Possible destinations: Blues, Devils, Maple Leafs, Rangers,
Stars.

SI's take: Messier is susceptible to injury, but when healthy
he's still a bull. He also has six Stanley Cup rings and imparts
a win-at-all-costs attitude to his teammates. He'd be a fine fit
in Toronto, where star center Mats Sundin would stay on the top
line, enabling Messier to thrive under less physical pressure as
a No. 2 center. Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn is smart enough to
utilize Messier's firebrand leadership without letting it
disrupt the team.

--Sabres G Dominik Hasek

Why him: Hasek is hockey's most valuable player, and his
announcement on Feb. 14 that he'll play in 2000-01, instead of
retiring after the season as he'd planned, increases his value.
Even with him, Buffalo, which through Sunday was ninth in the
Eastern Conference, may not make the playoffs. Hasek will earn
$7.5 million next year, and in standout rookie Martin Biron, the
Sabres have a much cheaper option.

Possible destinations: Flyers, Kings, Red Wings, Sharks.

SI's take: As long as it's in the playoff hunt, Buffalo will be
wary of dealing Hasek, who has played very well (1.17
goals-against average) since returning from a groin injury on
Feb. 1. If he goes, expect the Sabres to get two frontline
players in return.

--Canadiens LW Shayne Corson

Why him: He'll make $4 million next year, too pricey for
cost-conscious Montreal.

Possible destinations: Capitals, Ducks, Flyers, Kings, Maple
Leafs, Panthers, Red Wings, Sharks.

SI's take: Corson wants to stay with the Canadiens--he may even
accept a pay cut to do so--but because he's tough, skilled and a
veteran of 103 playoff games, Montreal will probably get an
offer too good to pass up.

--Canadiens G Jeff Hackett and Coyotes G Nikolai Khabibulin

Why them: The emergence of 23-year-old Jose Theodore has made
Hackett, 31, expendable; unsigned restricted free agent
Khabibulin is playing very well in the International Hockey
League.

Possible destinations: Flyers, Kings, Red Wings, Senators,
Sharks.

SI's take: Both keepers have good credentials, but acquiring one
of them for a postseason run is risky--neither has won a playoff
series.

--Devils D Lyle Odelein and Lightning D Petr Svoboda

Why them: Both could be unrestricted free agents this summer.

Possible destinations: Blues, Flyers, Hurricanes, Panthers,
Penguins, Red Wings.

SI's take: Odelein and Svoboda have played on Cup winners and
could be invaluable in the playoffs, so watch for bidding wars
to develop.

Holdout Alexei Yashin
HELPED BY AN NFL DECISION?

The latest fallout from Senators center Alexei Yashin's
season-long holdout was last week's announcement by the NHL that
it will sue him for $7 million in damages because he failed to
honor the final season of his five-year, $13.5 million contract.
For his part, Yashin wants to be a restricted free agent this
summer--as he would have been had he played in 1999-2000--and to
that end he may have found an unwitting ally in arbitrator Nick
Pumas.

On Feb. 10, Pumas declared Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Joey
Galloway a free agent, even though Galloway, who in 1999 was in
the final year of his five-year, $7.9 million contract, had
refused to play in the first eight games of last season because
he wanted more money. The NFL had claimed that the holdout made
Galloway ineligible for free agency and that he owed the
Seahawks another year. Galloway said that because his contract
expired at the close of the '99 season, his commitment had
ended. Those are essentially the points that the NHL and the NHL
Players' Association will argue when Yashin's case goes before
arbitrator Larry Holden in late May.

Though arbitration cases don't rely on precedence, Yashin and
the NHLPA can cite the Galloway decision in their argument.
"Whether or not a previous ruling is taken into account is up to
the individual arbitrator," says Frank Zotto, vice president of
case administration at the American Association of Arbitrators.
As Yashin's agent Mark Gandler says, "We don't know what impact
the Galloway case will have, but we were very interested in its
outcome."

Athletes Helping Athletes
SHARING THE WEALTH

All of agent Bob Sauve's 15 NHL clients hail from the province
of Quebec, and he makes sure they don't forget their roots. At
Sauve's urging, 11 of his players give $40,000 Canadian (about
$28,000 U.S.) to support an individual amateur athlete through
the Quebec Foundation for Athletic Excellence. Rangers
defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre, for example, sponsors Maryse
Turcotte, a weightlifter who will likely qualify for this year's
Summer Olympics in Sydney. Turcotte, 24, also studies business
at the University of Quebec. "Sylvain has made it possible for
me to get an education while I train," Turcotte says. "His
support has completely changed my life."

Sharks center Vincent Damphousse is especially close to his
sponsored athlete, paralympic wheelchair basketball player
Sabrina Pettinicchi. "He's become a friend," says Pettinicchi,
who bought a new wheelchair with money Damphousse provided. "He
wrote me a letter when we qualified for Sydney, and last year he
helped me find a doctor when I hurt my shoulder."

Says Damphousse, "It's gratifying to do something personal with
people from Quebec instead of giving to a big charity. Sabrina
is as intense and competitive an athlete as someone in the NHL.
I'm just fortunate to play a sport that pays good money."

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK STOODY/AP Despite being 39 and injury-prone, Messier could provide late-season help. COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON COLOR PHOTO: B. BENNETT/B. BENNETT STUDIOS

WHOM WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE?

GEORGE STEINBRENNER
PROSPECTIVE DEVILS OWNER
A consortium, YankeeNets, led by the Boss, is close to buying
the Devils. In 27 years as Yankees owner he has been hands-on,
making headlines and taking credit for what has lately been
baseball's highest-spending and winningest team.

OR

JOHN MCMULLEN
DEVILS OWNER

In 18 seasons as Devils boss he has allowed his G.M.'s (Lou
Lamoriello, since 1987) to control the roster. McMullen, 81,
rarely discusses the team in public, budgets a midsize payroll
and has watched his club become a perennial Cup contender.

The Verdict: For entertainment value the bombastic Steinbrenner
is your man, but we prefer McMullen's quiet professionalism.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)