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In the Crease

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Posted: Tuesday December 08, 1998 05:15 PM

By Pierre McGuire

Sports Illustrated The Penguins, who are in bankruptcy, will face more tough financial decisions after the season. With the contracts of key players like defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and forwards Martin Straka, Stu Barnes, Alexei Kovalev and Robert Lang expiring in June, Pittsburgh must decide how many of these players it can afford to keep. Because Jaromir Jagr's salary in 1999-2000 goes to $8.9 million from $5 million, expect Penguins general manager Craig Patrick to trade pricey defensemen Kevin Hatcher, who is making $2.9 million this season and is scheduled to earn $3.1 million next year....

Thanks in large part to superscout David Conte, the Devils have more of their own draft choices in their lineup (16) than any other team....

Would the Canadiens, who were 8-14-3 and in last place in the Northeast Division through Sunday, be struggling as badly if their backliners included Chris Chelios, Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider, Petr Svoboda, Jyrki Lumme, Lyle Odelein, Craig Ludwig and Peter Popovic? All these defensemen were drafted by Montreal and subsequently traded, most for little return....

The Kings, who have been hit hard by injuries (114 man-games lost), miss 21-year-old defenseman Aki-Petteri Berg, who is playing for TPS Turku of the Finnish Elite league. Berg, Los Angeles' first-round draft choice in 1995, returned to his homeland in October after rejecting the Kings' offer of $650,000 for this season. You can't blame him, considering the salaries of comparable backliners Bryan McCabe ($1.4 million) of the Canucks and Kyle McLaren ($1.2 million) of the Bruins....

The Red Wings have begun talks with captain Steve Yzerman on a contract extension. Unlike many stars, Yzerman doesn't have any incentive clauses in his deal for things like goals or points....

The Blackhawks are spending $750,000 on tough guys Dennis Bonvie and Ryan Vandenbussche, both of whom have been demoted to the minor leagues. Not many teams can afford a luxury like that.

Issue date: December 14, 1998

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