Major NHL offseason rumored signings and trades

By Al Morganti

Special to

The Summer of 2003 is going to be one of the most challenging for National Hockey League executives. Unsure of what looms on the labor front after next season, the people who count the money in the team offices are going to have to trust their instincts.

Most executives believe there will be either a cap on salaries or a luxury tax imposed on big spenders that would have a similar influence as a cap. In other words, even the biggest spenders are going to be worried about what their payroll looks like next September.

With that in mind, here are some stories you will likely be pondering during the Summer of 2003:

Will Dominik Hasek return to the NHL? Sounds silly when we just spoke about a salary cap, but not when you consider that a ticket for Hasek would be a one-year deal. Unlike some of the big names now making zillions, you could sign Hasek to a one-year deal, make a run for a Cup, and then have a zero balance due when the new CBA is in place.

The Rangers’ coaching situation. Watch for the Rangers to try to hire Larry Robinson during the upcoming draft. If they can’t make a deal, figure Glen Sather to come back again. Speaking of the Rangers, you can also expect Sather to either convince Mark Messier to retire, or move Eric Lindros by the start of next season.

The Panthers will trade the No. 1 pick. With goalie Roberto Luongo in place, the Panthers can deal the pick for a team that wants to draft goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The most interesting offer might come from Philadelphia, a team that has young forwards Justin Williams and Simon Gagne as bait.

The Capitals won’t be able to move Jaromir Jagr, and the same will hold true for John LeClair of the Flyers. The best either team will be able to do is restructure contracts, or take the very bold step of a buy out. Washington’s situation will be most perilous because an unhappy and unappreciated Jagr will become a real drain on the team’s energy next season. The Caps will offer to pick up a portion of his contract and GM George McPhee will spend the early summer trying to arrange such a deal, but he won’t find buyers in either Dallas, Detroit or even Manhattan.

Paul Kariya will sign a one-year extension with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. After this spring’s run to the Stanley Cup finals, bailing out now wouldn’t be a good move for the image.

Teemu Selanne will get interest from teams in the East, but he would rather land back in Anaheim with Kariya. The twist here again involves the CBA, and whether the Ducks would dare commit some long-term money to Selanne. Then again, Selanne could opt for the one-year deal many teams will be offering.

Derian Hatcher will stay with the Dallas Stars. The team will find ways to keep him in Dallas, even if theat means trading such people as Bill Guerin. In addition, many GMs feel that Hatcher won’t be nearly the player in another city as he is in Dallas, where he is the leader.

Phoenix will move Sean Burke. The Coyotes have already offered him around for a top-draft pick or two, and don’t be surprised if he lands in Colorado or St. Louis. In other goalie moves, the Flyers will sign either Jeff Hackett or Garth Snow.

Sergei Fedorov will be in play most of the summer. Let’s face it, something is up. Fedorov has twice turned down offers of $10 million per season from the Wings. Although the owner is a huge supporter of Fedorov, the same can’t be said for some management and team leaders. Fedorov might be the exception to the rule of owners being unwilling to commit big money into the future. A smart move here would be to sign Fedorov to huge bucks, and the smartest teams are the Avalanche and Devils.

Finally, the board of governors will meet to discuss the state of the game, and there will be no rash decision to make the nets larger. Instead, there will be serious discussion about eliminating icing calls (especially on penalty killing) and the owners will get some in-depth teaching about the neutral zone trap, and why it can or can not be eliminated.

Al Morganti covers the NHL for ESPN.

I was wondering what your predictions are