Wednesday, March 24, 1999
Sharks bite on Damphousse
Record day for deadline trades
By LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun
Vince Damphousse, who had played his entire 13-year career in Canada, got in two more cross-country tours yesterday before starting life anew as a San Jose Shark.
Damphousse's odyssey was part of another wild trade-deadline day in the National Hockey League, with a record 21 trades involving 30 players. The number of last-minute deals topped the previous high of 19 set in 1995 and equalled last year, while 30 players is the sixth-highest one-day transfer in league history.
Canadiens captain Damphousse, subject of trade rumours for weeks, might have thought himself safe when he boarded the team's plane to Edmonton yesterday, but found out about the deal when he landed.
After locking himself in one of the airplane's restrooms to avoid the media, he then began the long flight back to Montreal -- on the empty team charter plane with just the flight crew -- and intends to be in Toronto in time for the Sharks' skate at the Air Canada Centre at 11:30 this morning.
The Toronto Sun reported on the weekend that the Canadiens twice had offered Damphousse to the Sharks, trying to pitch the unrestricted free agent as a rent-a-player. The Sharks finally bit yesterday, giving up a fifth-round pick this year and a conditional pick in 2000 (first or second-round) based on whether Damphousse re-signs in July.
"It's a good risk," general manager Dean Lombardi said of Damphousse recovering his lost scoring touch to aid the Sharks' playoff hopes. Damphousse, who was just 36 points this season, had told the Montreal media he didn't want to leave and may be difficult to keep in California next season.
"Everyone's aware of what our deficiencies are," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter said of his Western Conference-worst offence. "He has put numbers up his whole career."
It's believed they will try to reunite Damphousse with former Oilers teammate Joe Murphy.
While Detroit dominated deadline day with key deals for goalie Bill Ranford, defencemen Chris Chelios and Ulf Samuelsson and winger Wendel Clark, other contenders were fine-tuning for the post-season as well.
The Flyers' interest in reacquiring defenceman Steve Duchesne from the Kings turned out to be genuine and they also reacquired winger Craig Berube from Washington. The Flyers now have regained six players who had been let go earlier -- Mark Recchi, Mikael Renberg, Karl Dykhuis, Ron Hextall, Duchesne and Berube. General manager Bob Clarke is also in his second incarnation with the team.
The Kings had signed Duchesne to a hefty four-year, -million US deal, but reached agreement the past two days on a small buyout, signed him to a new deal and peddled him to the Flyers for Dave Babych and a fifth-rounder. Clarke needed a replacement for Eric Desjardins, who is out with a knee injury, and is gambling that the prospect of another free-agent pay day will spur Duchesne and prop up the Flyers power play.
Another ex-Leaf on the move was centre Peter Zezel, who joined the Ducks from the Vancouver Canucks. Benoit Hogue went from Tampa Bay back to Dallas the day before and the Stars' other move to counter the Wings came yesterday when they scooped winger Derek Plante from the Sabres.
The Islanders, undergoing "a tree pruning" rather than a fire sale in general manager Mike Milbury's opinion, couldn't reach a deal with Ottawa for Trevor Linden and couldn't find a taker for Bryan Smolinski. The Senators, trying to clinch the Eastern title, lost out in the Joe Juneau sweepstakes to the Sabres, settling for right winger Nelson Emerson from Chicago.
Toronto had firm interest in Washington warhorse Dale Hunter, but he joined a revamped Colorado squad that went all out in a Theo Fleury trade earlier this month.