The NHL may force the free-agent contracts signed over the
summer by center Joe Sakic and defenseman Rob Blake, both of the
Avalanche, and Stars center Pierre Turgeon to be reworked. In
2004-05 the long-term deals will pay each player a relatively
small salary but a large bonus that Sakic, Blake and Turgeon
will receive even if the league locks out its players. (The
collective bargaining agreement expires following the 2003-04
season.) If there is a work stoppage, the NHL doesn't want
players to have pocketed big bonuses and thus have less
incentive to agree to proposals by owners....

Hard-hitting Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, who made
$1.5 million in 2000-01, is taking a big gamble by accepting
Pittsburgh's contract proposal of $1.15 million for this season.
By dint of being a 10-year player and accepting a salary below
the league average ($1.2 million), the oft-injured Kasparaitis
is assured of being an unrestricted free agent next summer....

The league is getting ready for a possible strike by referees
this season (the officials' contract expired in June) and has
told many young officials in the minor leagues and juniors to be
ready to attend a training camp. If replacements are used,
expect games to be officiated with only one referee, not two, as
was the case in all NHL games last season....

Don't be surprised if center Mike Peca, a restricted free agent
who was traded from the Sabres to the Islanders in June, signs a
seven-year deal with New York that averages $4.5 million per