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Roy at top of his game, but will Avs keep him?

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2000


Patrick Roy might be the NHL's greatest goaltender, is playing the best hockey of his career and is reveling in gaining the record for victories.

But when Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix was asked if he would offer Roy a contract extension, he was evasive.

"Our team is all under contract," Lacroix told the Rocky Mountain News. "It's no different than with the other guys, the older guys. There's so many intangibles as to how we're going to structure next year or future years. We're playing it one year at a time."

Roy, whose 448th victory broke the record he shared with the late Terry Sawchuck, is in the final year of a two-year, $15-million deal and could become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"I haven't put numbers on the years I want to play," said Roy, who set the record Tuesday night in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Capitals. "Right now, if you ask me that question, I probably want to play another 10 to 15 years. I'm having so much fun the way things are going. I still have the passion for the game and I still have fun going out there."

It would seem an uncomfortable position for Lacroix, who was Roy's agent for 10 years before becoming general manager of the old Nordiques in 1994. His December 1995 acquisition of Roy was critical in the Avalanche's Stanley Cup victory six months later.

Lacroix also must worry about signing Peter Forsberg, who has a one-year, $7.9-million contract and also can become an unrestricted free agent.

Roy can make Lacroix's decision easy if he continues to play well. In his first six games, Roy, 35, was 4-0-2 with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

NEXT IN LINE: At age 28 and with 246 victories entering Saturday night's game against the Lightning, Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur could eventually pass Roy.

At age 28, Roy had 225 victories entering the 1993-94 season.

"It means a lot to be mentioned like that," Brodeur said. "But I really can't think of that because it is so far down the road."

As for Roy, Brodeur said, "What Patrick did was just amazing. It's quite an accomplishment. Just something really wild. Like when Gretzky got the record for most goals. It just shows you what it means to be consistent throughout a career."

STILL THE GREATEST: Former goaltending great Glenn Hall, who owns the record of 502 consecutive games played, said Sawchuck is still the NHL's best.

"Terry's 103 shutouts were more amazing than his 447 wins," Hall said. "A quarter of his wins were by shutout, but that's not why he's at my top. He's No. 1 because he stopped pucks nobody else could stop. He was the first goalie who really crouched low to see the shot. The rest would stand up and stack the pads."

IGNORED: When former Flyers coach Roger Neilson returned to Philadelphia Tuesday as a Senators assistant, the Flyers made no mention of the occasion.

"Nah, I didn't expect anything," said Neilson, who was dumped last spring while undergoing cancer treatment. "I mean, it's been a while with the cancer thing. But I have to say the first game in Ottawa this year was really nice. They had a long standing ovation. It was touching."

Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke said the team didn't believe Neilson could handle the workload during the playoffs.

Neilson said he has gotten a clean bill of health.

"The doctors told me I should live to be 100," he said. "That's nice for me, but I don't know about anyone else."

SMITH RETURNS: After an injury that left him temporarily paralyzed and needing spinal fusion, Flames defenseman Steve Smith is playing. His left wrist is tightly wrapped to stabilize it because the numbness that kept him out of training camp has not disappeared.

"I just wasn't ready to stop if I didn't have to," said Smith, 37, who was hurt last season in a collision with teammate Bobby Dollas. "I am no more at risk than anybody else in here."

MONEY MATTERS: The 737 players on NHL rosters as of last weekend earned a total of $1.001-billion, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. It is the first time total payroll topped $1-billion. In 1994-95, total payroll was $440-million.

The average salary has nudged above $1.4-million. When Bob Goodenow took over in 1991 as executive director of the NHL Players Association, the average salary was $271,000.

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

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