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In the Crease

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Posted: Wednesday January 13, 1999 11:03 AM

By Pierre McGuire

Sports Illustrated

On the heels of last week's decision by the NHL to fine the Blues $1.5 million and a first-round draft choice for tampering with free agent Scott Stevens in 1994, don't be surprised if the league investigates the '97 free-agent signing of goalie Ed Belfour by the Stars. Observers have cast a suspicious eye on Dallas because Belfour agreed to a deal only one day after the signing period began....

Look also for the league to take action to keep a team from gaining an unfair negotiating advantage over other teams, as the Sharks did last summer when they traded a ninth-round draft pick to the Blackhawks for defenseman Gary Suter , a free agent-to-be. By acquiring Suter four days before the free-agency period began, San Jose general manager Dean Lombardi got exclusive negotiating rights to Suter for those four days and worked out a three-year, $10 million deal with him....

Score one for Maple Leafs associate general manager Mike Smith , who obtained gifted 21-year-old defenseman Bryan Berard from the Islanders for disgruntled goaltender Felix Potvin . Smith had been ripped by the media for not quickly unloading Potvin, but the Leafs ended up getting maximum value for him....

Look for a deal between the Canucks and Capitals involving Vancouver All-Star Pavel Bure . Going to the Canucks would be offensive defenseman Sergei Gonchar , talented forward Richard Zednik and a first-round draft pick. If the trade goes through, Washington may pair Bure with explosive winger Peter Bondra ....

Give credit to general manager David Poile of the expansion Predators who has put together a small, quick team built to play in the run-and-gun Western Conference. At week's end Nashville was 12-13-2 in that conference but 2-8-2 against the more physical Eastern teams....

After a slow start, Red Wings center Sergei Fedorov is showing signs of breaking out. His practice habits have improved, and Detroit is expecting big numbers from him down the stretch. The Wings should be more concerned about forward Brendan Shanahan . He doesn't fight his way into scoring position the way he used to, and observers are wondering if he still has the old competitive fire.

Issue date: January 18, 1999

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