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2003 NHL Free Agents: Last-Minute Moves

A flurry of activity before the NHL free agent market opened.

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June 30 -

Another kingfish has been tossed into the free agent pool. Left winger Paul Kariya is an unrestricted free agent (UFA). The Anaheim Mighty Ducks could have retained exclusive rights to Kariya with a qualifying offer of $10-million, the salary he made last season, but declined to do so. The Ducks are believed to have offered Kariya a contract at a smaller salary.

The Detroit Red Wings are ready for a Dominik Hasek comeback. The Red Wings have exercised their option on the goaltender's contract, valued at $8-million. Had they not done so, Hasek, who retired last summer and turns 39 in January, would have been an UFA on July 1.

His likely return means Curtis Joseph, who also earns $8-million per year, will be asked to waive his no-trade clause. Joseph has two years left on a deal he signed last summer.

The New York Rangers have traded the rights to both defenseman Brian Leetch and center Mark Messier. Leetch, who is 35 years old, went to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Jussi Markkanen and a draft pick. Messier, 42, was sent to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations. Both Leetch and Messier became unrestricted free agents (UFAs) as of July 1. The Sharks and Oilers will likely receive compensatory draft picks from the NHL if those players sign with new teams. The Rangers would not have received such compensation because of their high payroll.

Detroit has signed Darren McCarty to a four-year contract, reportedly worth a total of $8.75-million. McCarty, 31, is the right winger on the Red Wings' popular "Grind Line." His entire ten-year career has been spent in Detroit.

The Philadelphia Flyers have signed two-year contracts with defenseman Eric Desjardins and forward Claude Lapointe. Desjardins will earn $4-million annually, the same salary as last season.

Desjardins, 34, was named the Flyers' top defenseman last season for the seventh time in his career. Lapointe, acquired from the Islanders in March, is considered defensive specialist and penalty killer.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks have not picked up a $3.5-million option on their contract with center Adam Oates. He will be an UFA as of July 1. Oates, who turns 41 in August, is an 18-year veteran. Only five players in NHL history have recorded more than his 1,063 assists.

The Phoenix Coyotes have signed defenseman Teppo Numminen to a one-year contract at $4.5-million. Numminen, the team captain, has been with the team for 15 seasons. He leads the Jets/Coyotes franchise in career games played.

The Nashville Predators leading scorer has a new contract. Andreas Johansson was set to become a restricted free agent until the new deal was reached. The 30-year-old forward gets a raise from $650,000 to $900,000. Last season he scored 20 goals and 17 assists in 56 games.

Detroit retained a key defenseman when the Red Wings resigned Jason Woolley. Woolley, who will be 34 at the beginning of next season, agreed to a two-year deal. he'll earn $925,000 next season.

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