Further News About the Rangers & Keenan Situation
This story just got more interesting. It is not sure who is telling the truth, but it certainly seems like Mike Keenan is the weisel in this mystery.Larry Brooks of the NYPost reports:
By LARRY BROOKS
April 23, 2002 — EXCLUSIVE
If the NHL does in fact conduct an investigation regarding alleged tampering with Mike Keenan by the Rangers, it’s not going to be pretty for the Florida coach, who eight years ago was fined and suspended by Gary Bettman when a similar inquiry was launched into his behavior.
The Post was told yesterday by a well-placed source that if called to testify by the commissioner’s office, Glen Sather will state that it was Keenan himself who late last week initiated contact with the GM, who is searching for a replacement for Ron Low.
Our source says that Keenan told Sather that circumstances in Florida had changed since having assumed the position of Panthers coach on Dec. 3, and that he was extremely interested in returning to Broadway. Keenan is believed to have told Sather that he had an out-clause in his contract.
At that point, Sather told Keenan that the conversation was entirely improper, and that if interested in returning to the scene of both his greatest triumph and greatest crime – Keenan is well-liked by Mark Messier, Pavel Bure and Eric Lindros, so a reprise was not entirely unlikely – he would need to obtain permission to do so from Panthers chairman Alan Cohen.
Keenan, we’re told, was turned down flat by Cohen. He then called Sather again to tell the Ranger GM that he was bound by contract and therefore unavailable.
Keenan volunteered in an interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that the Rangers had gone through proper channels, gained permission to speak to him, and then offered him the opportunity to return to New York – which, after consideration and consultation with Cohen, he then rejected.
Cohen, who heads the group that purchased the Panthers last summer, then said that Sather had never contacted him for permission to speak to Keenan, and suggested that the Rangers had tampered with his head coach. At the same time, he said that the team would refrain from filing official charges against Sather.
The decision seems to be the prudent one for Cohen, caught in the same middle here as Sather. For it is quite likely that an official investigation would result in disciplinary action against Keenan, who was fined $100,000 and suspended for 60 days when he left the Rangers a couple of weeks following the 1994 Stanley Cup victory to sign as GM-coach of the Blues after having orchestrated the late bonus-payment fiasco in concert with Neil Smith.
Keenan, who apparently has a three-year contract with the Panthers, is believed to have become disillusioned over the direction of the franchise. The Post has been told that he accepted the job with the promise that he would have unlimited funds with which to attempt to attract marquee free agents. That pledge is believed to have been rescinded, leaving Keenan with a bare-bones squad that faces a long reconstruction process.