In two trades New York surrendered three NHL players ( Cloutier and forwards Sundstrom and Marc Savard) and a pair of picks in the 2000 draft for the fourth and ninth selections in this year's draft, wing Pavel Brendl and center Jamie Lundmark, respectively. Brendl and Lundmark, both 18, were high scorers in juniors last season and could be lighting up Broadway soon and for years to come.
The Rangers have long planned to be aggressive in this year's free-agent period, and that was evident when players went up for bid beginning last Thursday. Smith and Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts flew west to woo free agents such as Avalanche winger Theo Fleury and Canadiens defense-man Stephane Quintal. Smith also made overtures to winger Valeri Kamensky and defense-man Sylvain Lefebvre, both of Colorado. As of Monday it looked as if New York was on the verge of signing Kamensky, who has averaged nearly a point a game in his eight NHL seasons, and Quintal, a tough, crease-clearing blueliner. The Rangers were also closing in on Fleury, who scored 40 goals in 75 games last season. Neither New York nor Fleury—whom SI reached on a houseboat in British Columbia—would discuss the negotiations, but he's likely to command about $8 million per annum.
Smith was roundly booed by the draft day crowd at Boston's FleetCenter on June 26 when he stepped to the microphone to take Brendl, and a half hour later he was hooted again when he returned to select Lundmark. After the second set of boos, Smith graciously addressed his audience. "The Rangers would like to thank the Boston Bruins and their fans for their hospitality," he said, breaking into a grin. It was the satisfied smile of a man in the comfort of money.
Ron Hextall Cut Loose
Does This Waive Mean Good-bye?
Goaltender Ron Hextall has been characterized many ways during his 13-year NHL career. He has been labeled a phenom (for leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals and being voted playoff MVP as a rookie in '86-87), a pioneer (for his expertise in puckhandling), a madman (for attacking Canadiens defenseman Chris Chelios in the 1989 Eastern Conference finals) and a playoff sieve (for allowing 16 goals in three postseason games while with the Islanders in '94). After Hextall was waived by Philadelphia last week, his detractors may now hang another tag on him: has-been.
Hextall went 10-7-4 with a respectable 2.53 goals-against average as John Vanbiesbrouck's backup last season, but the Flyers had lost confidence in him because of his propensity to allow soft goals. Even though the club bought out the last year of his contract for $800,000 and is expected to offer him a non-playing job in the organization, there is no doubt that Hextall, 35, remains good enough to tend goal in the NHL. However, Hextall, Philadelphia's alltime wins leader (240) after two stints with the Flyers totaling 11 seasons, is loath to uproot his wife, Diane, and their four school-age children from their home in Voorhees, N.J.
If Hextall retires, he will be missed. He has been one of the most impassioned, colorful goalies of his time, and a man who, in both good times and bad, has faced his critics with respect and dignity.