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Some Panthers offer to help pay for a Cup

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


How's this for team spirit? Some Florida Panthers said they are willing to defer salary if it means acquiring Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Blake.

"I can't speak for other guys, but I would," captain Scott Mellanby said. "I make a lot of money ($2-million), don't get me wrong, but you have to pay a guy like Blake 7- or 8-million bucks."

Blake, 30, one of the NHL's top three defensemen, recently turned down a take-it-or-leave-it three-year, $22.5-million offer from Los Angeles. That means he likely will be traded before he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.

"Blake would make you a Stanley Cup favorite," Mellanby said. "When I say favorite, he makes you a top-three team immediately. I think anybody in here who wants to win a Cup would consider anything if it would help the team get Rob Blake."

In an informal survey of players, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel found at least four in the upper pay scale who said they would defer money. But general manager Bryan Murray said bringing in Blake would be problematic. There would be a price to pay in trade. And with Pavel Bure set to make $39-million over the next four years, Blake could be a bank breaker.

Murray appreciated the players' offer but said of deferred money, "Still, at the end of the day, you have to pay it."

AGE GAP: Ray Ferraro doesn't know when to quit. Seriously. The 36-year-old Thrashers forward passed on an ESPN offer this summer. It is difficult to walk away from a contract that offers $1-mill plus incentives, and Ferraro wants to make sure he's done physically before he commits to retirement.

"I'm going to try to not think about retirement during the season. You don't need a better example than (Sabres goaltender Dominik) Hasek," said Ferraro, who played 81 games last season and had 19 goals. "Last season he said it was his last year, and he stunk. His mind was not what it needed to be. When the season ends, I want to make sure I have nothing left in the tank."

DOCTOR'S ORDERS: Calgary defenseman Steve Smith continues to experience numbness in two fingers, the thumb and palm of his left hand. Smith recently went to Toronto to see a spine specialist and a peripheral nerve specialist, neither of whom could make a definitive diagnosis.

"The problem is, if I fold my hand back with my arm extended, I get these electrical charges that go shooting down my hand," Smith said. "That's a reason for concern, and we want to eliminate that before they give me the green light to play again."

Smith has been taping the hand and wrist for practice and wears a brace. "It's preventing the motion that causes the problem," he said. "It's like the old joke. The patient says to the doctor, "It hurts when it goes like this,' and the doctor says, "Well, don't do that.' "

MORE PENALTIES: Referees remained committed over the season's first few days to cracking down on stick and obstruction penalties. Dallas right wing Mike Keane thinks it's silly.

"They say they want to enforce this all year. I guarantee they won't," he said. "They won't do it in the playoffs. I don't know why they're wasting the first month of the season doing this."

Stars goaltender Ed Belfour said he is worried defenseman no longer will be able to clear opponents from the front of the net: "It's joke. If they're going to let it go, there's going to be all sorts of havoc in the crease because goalies aren't just going to let a guy back into them and bump into them."

ARIZONA DREAMIN': Is this any way to treat a superstar? The Arizona Republic reported the NHL has slapped a gag order on Wayne Gretzky and Steve Ellman from saying anything derogatory about outgoing Coyotes owner Richard Burke while the transfer of power takes place.

The penalties could range from $100,000 to $500,000. The sale is expected to be completed this month. Asked to comment, Gretzky, who will be part owner and head of hockey operations, wasn't talking.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Wild cut off season-ticket sales at just more than 15,000. The home opener, Monday against the Flyers, sold out in two minutes. ... The Coyotes and Jeremy Roenick have stopped talking about an extension to his five-year, $20-million contract. Sounds like he will be an unrestricted free agent next year.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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