New contract disputes could result in another grim season in
For years, the Bruins have been the poster organization for
fiscal responsibility. Last season, for instance, Boston
exercised its right to walk away from the $2.8 million salary
that had been awarded to forward Dmitri Khristich in arbitration,
and three weeks into the season traded him to the Maple Leafs.
Meanwhile, starting goaltender Byron Dafoe, a restricted free
agent, missed the first month of 1999-2000 because he and the
Bruins could not come to terms on a contract. He wound up signing
practically the same deal (three years, $9.3 million) in October
that Boston had offered him a month earlier.
The undermanned Bruins struggled when the season began, and Dafoe
never got untracked after he returned to action. As the year went
on, injuries cut a swath through the Boston lineup, and the high
hopes the Bruins once had were crushed. They finished last in the
Northeast Division and missed the playoffs.
Now it looks as if Boston is headed the same way this season.
After having signed unrestricted free-agent defenseman Paul
Coffey, 39, to a generous two-year, $4.5 million contract last
month, the Bruins remained at loggerheads last week with three
key restricted free-agent forwards--Joe Thornton, 21, Anson
Carter, 26, and Sergei Samsonov, 21--with no resolution in sight.
August 27, 2000
"I worry about them not being at training camp, but I don't have
a solution," general manager Harry Sinden says of his impasse
with the trio, who had a combined 152 points last year. "Whether
it was real or not, the rest of the team imagined that [last
year's contract disputes] had an effect on their play."
Sinden says Boston has changed its negotiating strategy and no
longer will make the lowball offers for which it has taken a
beating from the public over the past decade. "Whatever the
market says the player should get, that's what we offer," says
Sinden, "but that doesn't leave me with any blinking room, unless
we want to pay that player more than he deserves."
There's not much chance of that happening. Thornton and Samsonov,
the first and eighth players drafted in 1997, respectively,
received bonus-laden contracts from the Bruins because, if Boston
hadn't signed them within two years, they could have reentered
the draft. Now, however, because they don't qualify for
arbitration until they complete five years of NHL service (both
have three years), the leverage has shifted from Thornton and
Samsonov to the team.
Carter could have gone to arbitration but decided not to, in part
because of the way Boston handled the Khristich situation last
season. Says Carter's agent Pat Brisson, "The Bruins messed up
their chemistry last year. It's almost as if training camp and
October and November don't count for them."
All Eyes Will Be On the Twins
They were the darlings of the 1999 entry draft, a pair of
carrottopped twins who were selected by the Canucks after
Vancouver had engineered dramatic draft-day deals. Daniel and
Henrik Sedin, the No. 2 and 3 picks in that draft, respectively,
will emerge from the darkness of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, where the
sun shines only a few hours a day in the winter, to the NHL
spotlight when training camps open next month. The pressures on
them will be enormous because they are being counted on to help
reverse the fortune of the Canucks, who have missed the
postseason the last four years.
Unlike center Patrik Stefan, the first player taken in 1999 who
struggled as a 19-year-old rookie with the Thrashers last season,
the Sedins stayed home to improve their game, playing for MoDo in
the Swedish League, where they had decent, if not spectacular,
years. Henrik, a 6'2", 196-pound center, tied for sixth in the
league in scoring (nine goals and 38 assists in 50 games), while
Daniel, a 6'1", 194-pound wing, was 11th (19 and 26).
"I don't think you can shield them [from the pressure]," says
Canucks assistant coach Mike Johnston. "They're going to have to
live with it, especially in Vancouver. There's as much pressure
there as anywhere in North America, so they'll be scrutinized.
"They have to get used to the NHL's grinding style of play, which
will be different from what they're used to in Sweden," adds
Johnston, "but they're big guys who are well-developed and very
strong on their skates."
The Sedins won't be the first twins to play together in the NHL,
not even the first Swedish twins. Countrymen Patrik and Peter
Sundstrom played for the 1989-90 Devils. The two youngest Sutter
brothers, twins Rich and Ron, came up together with the Flyers in
Rich Sutter, now a scout for the Minnesota Wild, befriended the
Sedins at the 1999 world championships. "They were quiet to start
with, but by the end of the second day, they had a thousand
questions," says Sutter, who offered to unofficially advise them
once the season gets under way. "I told them don't be too shy to
ask for help, because, like it or not, they're going to need it."
Soap Opera Stars
Taking a Turn On Television
Who shot J.R.? It was the daytime soap opera One Life To Live,
which invited five NHL players, including Coyotes center Jeremy
(J.R.) Roenick and Devils forward Scott Gomez, to make cameo
appearances during an episode that will air on Aug. 31. Roenick
and Gomez play airport gate agents. Three other players,
defensemen Sheldon Souray of the Canadiens and Chris Therien of
the Flyers and goalie Kevin Weekes of the Lightning, were extras
without any lines. Roenick delivered five lines, Gomez one.
"The schedule is pretty crazy," says Roenick, who previously
appeared on a children's show on the Disney Channel and on HBO's
Arli$$. "They have to cram a lot into one day's work--a lot of
lines, a lot of rehearsals. There wasn't too much fooling around.
It was right to the point, and we banged it out."
Ultimately, Roenick would like to expand his TV work. "The more
you do it, the more at ease you become," says Roenick, whose new
boss in Phoenix, Wayne Gretzky, made a 1993 appearance on The
Young and the Restless. "It's definitely something I need to work
WHOM WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE?
A year from unrestricted free agency, LeClair won a record $7
million arbitration award on Aug. 11 after having scored 40 or
more goals in five straight years. LeClair has emerged from the
shadow of linemate Eric Lindros and proved that he, too, is an
A year from unrestricted free agency, Sakic signed a one-year,
$7.9 million contract 24 hours before his arbitration hearing
last week. Sakic, who missed 22 games with injuries last season,
averaged 1.35 points per game in 1999-2000, second to Jaromir
The Verdict: As much as we like Sakic's multidimensional skills,
we'll take LeClair because he plays a position in which topflight
performers are in short supply.