PRINCE OF PUCKS: Where will Cujo, Fedorov land?

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Assessing the unrestricted free-agent signings thus far ... Only a week has gone by, and as expected, there hasn't been much activity in terms of major signings. Let's examine the ones that went down thus far. : Signed by the Detroit . Not unexpected, as it was the Wings' intent to sign the former captain once it became clear they would lose forward to free agency. He joins three-time Norris winner , former Norris winner , notable veterans and and the ever-promising on Detroit's star-studded blue line. They will be hell to play against next season, especially with Hatcher providing the muscle. and : Signed by the Colorado in the most shocking signings thus far. Selanne and Kariya both took pay cuts (notably Kariya, who will make $1.2 million) for the opportunity to play in Colorado next season. This deal apparently was "gift-wrapped" for Avs GM Pierre Lacroix by agent Don Baizley, who not only represented those two, but several other notable players. Given a sweetheart deal like this for one year, I don't blame Lacroix for snapping it up. These two will add significant punch to an already lethal attack. But as entertaining as they'll be next season with the two former on the roster, the Avs won't get anywhere in the playoffs without a quality replacement for the recently retired in net. And while we're on the topic, could Lacroix have a more Machiavellian plan in mind here? After all, is only re-signed for one more season at $10 million, coincidentally the same money Kariya had made in Anaheim. Kariya becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the Avs can negotiate with him up until July 1, 2004. Might Lacroix have picked up Kariya in anticipation of Forsberg's long-anticipated retirement back to Sweden? Hmmmm ... : Signed by the Columbus , which was a surprise, considering the Buffalo and N.Y. were believed to be very interested in him. Indeed, the may have had the inside track until Marchant's agent sought a five-year deal that GM Glen Sather decided was too lengthy for the money he'd pay out. While Marchant won't replace the departed 's offense, he'll provide a strong two-way game and is expected to tutor promising young forward . : Signed by the Philadelphia and touted as the starting goalie that might get them into the Stanley Cup finals. As expected, this was greeted with derision by many fans. Hackett is perhaps the most underrated goalie in the NHL, but to expect him to carry the deep into the playoffs could be a stretch. The odds increase if the injury bug, which has taken a toll on Hackett in recent seasons, bites him again this season. And now we come to everyone's favorite game, "Where will land?" After all, Fedorov is the most notable free agent remaining on the market. Of course, there's a good reason why he's still on the market: his demands for a lengthy deal believed to be worth over $10 mil per season. Could he land with the Anaheim ? Sure, it's possible, as the Ducks now have room in their budget now that has departed for Colorado. But as interested as GM Bryan Murray is in Fedorov, whom he coached in Detroit in the early 1990s, Murray is balking at offering up the same $10 mil-per-season packages the Wings made to Fedorov. Unless Fedorov is willing to come down in price significantly, I don't think the Ducks will sign him. Rather, I think Murray will take the savings from the salaries he's dumped (Kariya and combined for close to $13 million), to both re-sign Jean-Sebastien Giguere and , plus shop for another scoring forward (Ray Whitney, perhaps?) and another defenseman. A Dallas Morning News columnist was stumping for the to sign Fedorov, but that appears unlikely. Team owner Tom Hicks has stated he won't increase the payroll beyond the $66 million it was last season, so unless the can dump about $12 mil in salary, they won't be able to afford Fedorov. Indeed, if they couldn't dump enough salary to re-sign Hatcher, how could they possibly do it for the more expensive Fedorov? And if Hicks decided to raise the payroll after all, it would make his club look stupid. Die-hard fans will question the logic in this, given their previous unwillingness to do so for their long-time defensive stalwart and team captain. There are suggestions the N.Y. might be interested, but if GM Glen Sather wants Fedorov, he's made no indication. Forget about the L.A. and Toronto landing him. The have been very critical of clubs like the for paying huge salaries to free agents, and they have opened their books to indicate how significant their losses have been over the years. Signing Fedorov would make them look hypocritical. As for the Leafs, if they couldn't afford to go after their real need, a blue-line stud like Hatcher, they certainly can't afford Fedorov. So we really don't know where Sergei will end up, kids. Unless he and his agent are willing to face reality and ask for less, Fedorov will continue to sit on the sidelines. But there's another fun game we can play, called "Where will Cutis Joseph land?" With former starter Dominik Hasek returning to the club next season, GM Ken Holland is in a bind. He's got two $8 million dollar goalies, but can't afford to keep both. Thus he must shop one. The two main questions are, who does Holland shop, and where will they end up? Although Hasek doesn't have a no-trade clause, does, making it very difficult to move him. Indeed, if Cujo decides not to waive the clause under any circumstance, the Wings may have no choice but to shop the Dominator. However, there's a school of thought suggesting Joseph will be miffed by the Wings retaining Hasek's rights and will waive the clause but only for certain teams. The N.Y. Post's Larry Brooks believes GM Glen Sather is interested, and might peddle to the Wings for Joseph, then flip current starter to the Boston for winger or . However, Sather told Newsday last week he has no interest in Joseph, and there's no guarantee Joseph wants to go to that retirement home of overpaid veterans that is the roster. Speaking of the , there's a suggestion Cujo could be dealt there, but given the ' unwillingness to pay huge salaries to unrestricted free agents (the fiasco aside), the Wings would have to "eat" half of Joseph's salary to do this. And given the rumored bad blood between Wings owner Mike Illich and owner Jeremy Jacobs, which is believed to have led to the signing Lapointe, Cujo wearing the "spoked B" appears an even bigger long shot. Forget about the . GM Bob Clarke signed to be his starter and isn't about to plunk down major coin for Cujo or part with any significant players from his roster. The St. Louis ? That's where Joseph got his start, but again, his salary is too hefty for the to absorb, unless they offer up either or . The Wings claim they'll shop one of their goaltenders for a quality forward, and either guy would certainly fit the bill in that regard. Could the Wings do the unthinkable and trade Cujo to the ? While most dismiss this as impossible, it could emerge as a reality if the Wings can not find any takers elsewhere. Sure, the notion seems far-fetched, given the bitterness of the rivalry between the clubs, but the Wings may not have any choice. If they're willing to give it one more shot with Hasek between the pipes, they'll have already written off Joseph's value to them, thus they may not concerned over the prospect of facing him in a conference rivalry. Like Fedorov, there is no immediate destination foreseen for Joseph. Their respective situations could take the summer, perhaps longer, to sort out. At home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he's known as Lyle Richardson. But around these parts, he's known as Spector, FOXSports.com's Prince of Pucks. Check in with Spector for the latest NHL rumors from around the league and buy his book.
Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, Kings, Stars, Rangers, Flyers, Avalanche, Blues, Maple Leafs, Ducks, Blue Jackets, Sergei Samsonov, Martin Lapointe, Brian Rolston, Jason Woolley, Dominik Hasek, Jiri Fischer, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Petr Sykora, Doug Weight, Curtis Joseph, Paul Kariya, Mike Dunham, Ray Whitney, Rick Nash, Peter Forsberg

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