The Rangers, meanwhile, had made up a sweater with Lindros's name on it and had already begun making plans to hold a press conference. The Flyers, furious, informed John Ziegler, who at that time was still the NHL president, of the controversy. Ziegler properly refused to rule on the matter at that point. When Ziegler's spokesman, Bill Wilkerson, was asked later, "In the NHL, when is a deal a deal?" he replied, tellingly, "I don't know."
The league quickly decided to appoint Bertuzzi to arbitrate, and Bertuzzi ruled nine days later that the deal had become a deal when Aubut gave Snider Lindros's phone number. "Witnesses from more than one Club clearly stated that Aubut would only permit the Club to speak with Lindros once it had agreed on a deal with Quebec," Bertuzzi wrote. "If that be the case...[Aubut's] providing of Lindros' phone number to Snider is clear evidence of the existence of a Philadelphia-Quebec deal." Case closed.
So what are the implications of the above? Well, Aubut has lost virtually all of his credibility. In any dealings with him in the future, let the buyer beware. Still, his deal improves Quebec considerably in the short term. Overnight it went from being a doormat that has missed the playoffs for the past five years to the favorite in the weak Adams Division. That assumes, of course, that Aubut uses some of that $15 million to make it worth the while of Hextall and Ricci, who were disgruntled by their inclusion in the trade, to report. Furthermore, the No. 1 pick from Philadelphia in 1993 is likely to be a good one.
As for the Flyers, Lindros gives them an explosive bodychecker who is also a deft puckhandler. He has been likened to a taller, brawnier Mark Messier of the Rangers, and like Messier, Lindros will make the good players around him better. Philadelphia already has a suitable linemate for Lindros in Mark Recchi, who is only 24, and a good second-line center in 21-year-old Rod Brind' Amour. But don't expect Lindros to reverse the Flyers' recent downward trend in his first season—especially since Philadelphia significantly weakened itself in goal and on defense to land him. Pittsburgh, one should recall, missed the playoffs the first four seasons of Lemieux's career. But eventually the Penguins assembled a complementary cast around him, and Pittsburgh has won the past two Stanley Cups.
Lindros, though, is not that patient. "I don't think it's going to be four years," he says. "My goal is to get on the team and have it improve 10 points every year."
"We have a clear goal now," Carl says. "Sometimes you have to go through short-term pain to get to long-term gain."
The Lindros clan should know.