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Ducks make Kariya free agent; Wings pick up Hasek's option

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2003

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks made seven-time all-star forward Paul Kariya an unrestricted free agent, declining to tender a qualifying offer Monday night .

Kariya, who helped lead Anaheim to the Stanley Cup finals, will be available to the highest bidder on Tuesday. The team refused to pay $10 million to keep its captain next season, but could re-sign him for less.

''It's tough financial times in our business and we have to do some restructuring,'' general manager Bryan Murray said. ''We will still try to negotiate a contract with him.''

Murray sounded unsure of the chances of getting Kariya to come back for next season.

''He did not give us the right of first refusal. He was obviously disappointed,'' the GM said. ''We had talked on a couple of occasions. I don't think he shut the door on us, by any means.''

The decision was announced just hours before the NHL deadline of midnight EDT for qualifying offers.

Earlier, The Detroit Red Wings picked up Dominik Hasek's $8 million contract option for next season, officially welcoming back the retired star and at the same time muddling their goaltending picture.

The Wings must now decide what to do with Curtis Joseph, who has two years remaining on his $24 million, three-year contract and more importantly has a no-trade clause. Hasek, the two-time MVP and a six-time recipient of the Vezina Trophy with Buffalo, retired after Detroit won the Stanley Cup in 2002.

Now 38, he says he missed the game last season and informed the Wings last month of his decision to return to the ice.

Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman and Igor Larionov became restricted free agents. Darren McCarty and Jason Woolley avoided free agency by signing new deals.

Nashville signed leading scorer Andreas Johansson and made qualifying offers to eight other players while failing to tender offers to 14 others.

''There are financial implications with these moves younger players generally cost less than older players,'' general manager David Poile said. ''In many cases of the players who we have not made qualifying offers to, the price is simply too high.''

Terms of Johansson's deal were not disclosed. The 30-year-old forward had 20 goals and 17 assists in 56 games last season.

Also on Monday, Adam Oates joined the free-agent market while Eric Desjardins removed his name from consideration.

Included among the unrestricted free agents are forwards Cliff Ronning, Sergei Fedorov, Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Joe Nieuwendyk and Daniel Cleary as well as defensemen Oleg Tverdovsky, Derian Hatcher, Greg De Vries and Glen Wesley.

But they might not be scooped up as quickly as in the past. Several of the traditional big-spending clubs such as Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia and Toronto have said they plan to approach free agency more judiciously.

Oates, a 40-year-old forward, became unrestricted when Anaheim declined to pick up his $3.5 million option for next season.

''We've made an offer to Adam. But I'm sure he wants to investigate.''

The 37-year-old Ronning had 48 points last season, tied for second-most for the Minnesota Wild.

Desjardins took himself off the market by signing a two-year deal plus an option to remain in Philadelphia. The 34-year-old defenseman will earn about $4 million a year, which is what he made last season.

The Flyers also re-signed center Claude Lapointe to a two-year deal. He would have become an unrestricted free agent.

Phoenix re-signed 35-year-old defenseman Teppo Numminen to a one-year deal.

The Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils decided Tverdovsky's $3.6 million qualifying offer was too rich so the 27-year-old offensive defenseman is now unrestricted.

The Edmonton Oilers re-signed defenseman Cory Cross to a three-year contract Monday. Cross, 32, came to Edmonton at the March trading deadline along with wing Radek Dvorak in a deal that sent Anson Carter to the New York Rangers.

The Rangers and Oilers also completed a trade Monday that probably won't end up the way it started. New York sent two-time Norris Trophy winner Brian Leetch to Edmonton for goalie Jussi Markkanen.

The Oilers were not expected to sign Leetch but will receive a compensatory draft pick in 2004 probably a second-rounder when the defenseman goes to another team.

As expected, a larger group than usual of restricted free agents was not tendered qualifying offers Monday and therefore became unrestricted free agents. The latest trend comes as result of teams tightening their budgets in preparation for next year's labor negotiations.



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