The Stars: Goalie Dominik Hasek has been the NHLs best for two years, and center Pat LaFontaine, who gave Mario Lemieux a run for the scoring title two years ago, finally appears to be recovered from reconstructive surgery on his right knee. Hasek is wasting away in Buffalo, and some contender would take him, even at his salary of $2.1 million per year, but he won't go anywhere because the Sabres are moving to the new Crossroads Arena in 1996, and premium players sell premium seats. The Sabres don't have much else.
The Hobey Baker Winner: The outstanding collegiate hockey player rarely makes an impact in the NHL, but Brian Holzinger, a playmaking center from Bowling Green, should be a rookie of the year candidate.
Outlook: The Sabres will try to get by with mostly young (read: inexpensive) players for the next few years. Eleventh in the conference.
Life after the Trap: No team will be affected as much by the stricter rules enforcement as the Panthers, formerly the clutchingest-and-grabbingest team in hockey. Florida, which missed the playoffs by a point two years in a row, started to mend its ways by firing coach Roger Neilson and replacing him with Doug MacLean. That will teach Neilson for overachieving with a bunch of old guys.
New Language: The Panthers are paying $30 an hour for an English tutor for Radek Dvorak, their No. 1 pick from the Czech Republic.
Outlook: Team president Bill Torrey says Florida isn't going to rely strictly on youth, but the firing of Neilson is a backward step. Twelfth in the conference.
The Fan Base: Star center Alexei Yashin, while having his annual contract battle, shelled out $200 for four tickets to the Senators' first exhibition game and went with his agent and parents. Maybe general manager Randy Sexton will use that dough to renegotiate the five-year, $4.2 million contract Yashin signed in 993. Maybe not. Yashin, a nice kid, should shut up and play.