NHL Notebook: Patrick still high on his acquisitions in trade for Jagr
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Nearly three years have passed since the Penguins sent Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to Washington for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk.
Since then, Jagr has moved on to Manhattan, Kucera has returned to Europe and Beech, Sivek and Lupaschuk have spent a lot of time riding buses around the American Hockey League.
Beech, Sivek and Lupaschuk have combined to dress for 140 of a possible 738 man-games with the Penguins the past three seasons, chipping in 13 goals and 20 assists.
Not exactly a high-impact contribution, but apparently enough to convince management to keep all three in the organization after their contracts expire this summer.
Asked if the Penguins plan to extend qualifying offers, which require at least a 10 percent raise, to Beech, Lupaschuk and Sivek in order to retain their rights, General Manager Craig Patrick responded simply, "Right. Yeah."
Patrick added a predictable asterisk -- "All this contract stuff is a little premature, because we really haven't had meetings to discuss everybody" -- but was firm that all three could figure in the Penguins' long-term plans.
His thumbnail assessment of each:
Beech -- "He'll have a good career ahead of him. ... He understands the game defensively a lot better than he did when he first turned pro."
Lupaschuk -- "I think he's doing fine. ... I like the way he's coming along. He's got a great skill level."
Sivek -- "His progress has been stunted a little bit, but we definitely see him as a prospect to play in the National Hockey League."
Not everyone who has followed the pro careers of Beech, Lupaschuk and Sivek shares Patrick's upbeat perspective. In Wilkes-Barre, the talk is of Beech's inconsistency, of the way Lupaschuk's offensive game has deteriorated while his defensive work remains suspect, of Sivek's lackluster work ethic.
Although all three will receive qualifying offers that include lower pay if they play in the minors, Beech must be offered an NHL salary of at least $1,127,500. He has 99 NHL games on his resume and appears to have the best shot at securing steady work with the Penguins.
"He sees the ice really well," Patrick said. "He has good hands. It would be nice if he'd get to be a stronger skater. That's going to be something he has to work on, but he's a good, sound hockey player."
Beech's skating has been an issue since the Penguins acquired him, but he doesn't feel it's a problem.
"I don't know if my skating's too bad," he said. "I do have a different style of skating. It's not real fluid, and sometimes I think that takes away from how fast it looks. That's where that [perception] comes from. I don't think I have any problems skating, at all."
Lupaschuk said he was effective enough early in the season to merit a promotion -- "I was playing really well. I thought I was going to get called up any day" -- but that injuries sabotaged his second half. He believes he could be part of the defense corps the Penguins are building.
"If I'm playing well, I think I deserve a shot, to show what I can do," he said.
What Sivek thinks about his future with the Penguins isn't known. He is recovering from hip surgery and has gone back to the Czech Republic.
There was a time when he looked almost NHL-ready -- "If you asked the Washington people who they thought would make the NHL first, they said 'Sivek,' " Patrick said -- but he has dressed for just 38 games with the Penguins.
And even though he did little in those games to merit a longer look, the Penguins apparently plan to give him one.
Officials of the NHL and its players association will meet Thursday in Toronto, the first formal negotiating session for a new collective bargaining agreement since Oct. 1. Several follow-up sessions will be held next month.
Former Penguins forward Billy Tibbetts can't hold a job, but he never seems to lose his place in the headlines. Tibbetts was released by Houston of the AHL last Saturday after being charged with resisting arrest and resisting a search in the wake of a traffic stop the previous day. "He came here knowing that if he got into any trouble, on or off the ice, he'd be let go right away," Aeros GM Tom Lynn told the Houston Chronicle. "There would be no talking, no change of plans."
Even though the "B." in the name of Buffalo owner B. Thomas Golisano's name could stand for "Billionaire," it sounds as if he'll align himself with other small-market clubs during the CBA talks. Golisano told a news conference the Sabres lost about $10 million in 2003-04 and are among the teams that would fare better financially if next season is wiped out by a labor dispute rather than having it operate under the current set-up.
A rare thing
Toronto center Joe Nieuwendyk, who has won Stanley Cups with Calgary (1989), Dallas (1999) and New Jersey (2003), is trying to become the first player in modern NHL history to earn championships with four teams. The only guy ever to win Cups with four clubs is Jack Marshall, who did it with the Winnipeg Victorias (1901), Montreal AAA (1902), Montreal Wanderers (1910) and Toronto Blueshirts (1914).
Colorado center Peter Forsberg, a free agent July 1, has made noises about playing in Sweden next season, and the chances of him returning there weren't hurt when his dad, Kent, accepted a one-year contract to coach MoDo in the Elitserien, the country's top league. One of Forsberg's linemates during an earlier stint with MoDo, Vancouver left winger Markus Naslund, also might return home and not come back if there is a lengthy lockout.
Out of work
Former Penguins center Paul Gardner, an assistant coach with Nashville for the Predators' first five seasons and their pro scout for the past year, will not have his contract renewed. The decision was made, at least in part, because Nashville is trying to cut expenses in preparation for a lockout. One of Gardner's former colleagues, Predators associate coach Brent Peterson, is being treated for Parkinson's disease, a nerve disorder. A year ago, Peterson was widely mentioned as a candidate for the Penguins' coaching job eventually filled by Eddie Olczyk.
Not made for TV I
Forget made-for-TV movies; the Czech Republic's gold-medal winning performance at the 1998 Olympics will be the subject of an opera. Jaromir Jagr is one of the primary figures in the work, which is titled "Nagano" and is described as "an opera in three periods and one overtime."
Not made for TV II
Watching "Hockey Night in Canada" is a Saturday night ritual for many Canadians, but they had to find another way to stay busy last night. It seems Game 2 between Philadelphia and Toronto had to be pushed back until today because Wachovia Center was booked for an Arena Football League game. Last season, a Flyers-Maple Leafs game in Philadelphia could not be played on a Saturday night because of a Yanni concert.
Not a money player
Although St. Louis has reached the playoffs 25 consecutive years, the Blues have lost in the opening round 16 times during that stretch and have made it as far as the conference final only twice since 1970.
And while many factors contributed to St. Louis lasting just five games against San Jose this year, one of the most obvious is the failure of high-priced LW Keith Tkachuk to score a goal in his past 11 playoff games. Blues GM Larry Pleau has pledged to cut the team's $60 million payroll, although it's unlikely there will be much of a market for Tkachuk's $9 million salary.
First Published April 25, 2004 12:00 am