With a season-ending ailment to center Mario Lemieux and injuries to top forwards Martin Straka and Robert Lang, Pittsburgh's playoff hopes have dimmed, and the Penguins are gambling that they can keep Kasparaitis on the cheap—the second year of his contract is worth $1.25 million. But they may be risking a lot by forgoing a trade that would bring them a sizable package of players and/or draft picks from a contender.
Veterans Francis and Oates
A Pair of Old Faithfuls
Midway through the first period of last Friday's 2-2 tie between the Capitals and the Hurricanes, Carolina's 39-year-old center, Ron Francis, crashed the Washington net on a power play and punched in the game's first goal. A period later Francis's counterpart, the Capitals' 39-year-old Adam Oates, answered with a seeing-eye pass to wing Jaromir Jagr in the slot for the equalizer. Francis would add a third-period goal to win this match between ageless top-line playmakers, but after a combined 38 seasons in the NHL, both Francis and Oates remain among the league's elite.
With 11 goals and 54 assists through Sunday, Oates was fourth in the league in scoring and first in assists, while Francis (23 and 40) was sixth and fourth. They may finish in the top 10 in the points race together for the first time since the 1994-95 season, and neither plans to retire anytime soon.
In fact, Oates, with 13 assists and 16 points in his last 11 games, and Francis, with seven goals and 12 points in his last eight, had been their clubs' primary offensive forces. "It's been fun," says Francis. "There are stretches that no matter where you're standing, the puck seems to find you, and that's where I am now."