SATHER misses on Jagr, lands Lindros

Tuesday, August 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ When Glen Sather couldn't bring Jaromir Jagr to the New York Rangers, he got The Next One.

Eric Lindros, heralded as a teen-ager as the next Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, was traded to the Rangers from the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, ending a stormy relationship with his only NHL team.

``I look at this as something fresh,'' Lindros said. ``I look at it as an opportunity to get Ranger hockey back on the map and to get back in the playoffs and to cause some havoc.''

Sather _ the Rangers' general manager _ sent left wing Jan Hlavac, defenseman Kim Johnsson, forward Pavel Brendl and a third-round draft pick in 2003 to the Flyers.

Lindros was acquired to be a building block for the Rangers, out of the playoffs four straight seasons.

Sather failed to obtain Jagr, the league scoring champion, because he said Pittsburgh's asking price would further rob the Rangers of their young stable of talent.

The Penguins traded Jagr to Washington, and Sather turned his attention to Lindros, who hasn't played in the NHL in 15 months because of problems with concussions and a huge rift with Flyers GM Bob Clarke.

Lindros' sixth concussion, delivered by New Jersey's Scott Stevens in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals, ended his career with the Flyers.

``I understand that people are skeptical because of the concussion history, but we're just going to have to win them over,'' Lindros said. ``I know when I'm healthy I can play this game, and I think I will be healthy.''

Philadelphia will send a first-round pick in 2003 to the Rangers if Lindros goes down with a head injury during the preseason or within the first 50 games of the regular season and doesn't return to action for at least 12 months.

The 28-year-old center became a restricted free agent when he turned down Philadelphia's $8.5 million contract offer last summer.

``I don't think it's very risky,'' said Sather, who gave Lindros a four-year contract reportedly worth about $38 million. ``He and his family feel very comfortable about this. He wants to play and the doctors approved him to play a long time ago.''

Once medically cleared in November to resume playing, Lindros just needed to find a new team that would deal with the Flyers and his meddling parents.

``He's 28. If he's going to continue to let his parents play a part in his life, that's up to him,'' Clarke said. ``It didn't work here. Maybe it'll work in New York.''

Carl, Lindros' father and agent, and mother, Bonnie, were blamed by Clarke for too much involvement in Flyers matters. The barbs got personal once Eric's health became a constant issue, and things didn't improve.

In November, Lindros only wanted to be traded to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Days before the trade deadline in March, Lindros added St. Louis, Detroit and Washington to his list. He added the Rangers last month.

``Because I had so much time off I was also having time for the extra bit of healing if it needed to take form,'' Lindros said. ``Having that extra bit of caution might not have been the worst thing in the world.''

Clarke said several deals were completed, but they were wrecked when Lindros refused to play for any team off the list.

``I never got too high, I never got too low about the situation,'' Lindros said. ``I just waited until the final phone call.''

Coming to New York wasn't high on Lindros' wish list before Sather sold him on it.

``I know he was nervous about it when it was first talked about him coming here because of going back to Philadelphia, and the fans and the years that he spent there,'' Sather said. ``But it will be a great rivalry, won't it?''

Monday's divorce from the Flyers started it, and it will grow leading up to New York's Jan. 12 game at the First Union Center.

``I guess relief is a good word,'' Clarke said at a Voorhees, N.J., news conference. ``It's been hanging over the team's head for a long time. ... So I guess it's good he's gone and we've got the players in return so we can start worrying about our own team again.''

And that's what Sather wants to do as well. He's taken criticism in New York as details of the trade were revealed in the past week.

``I think if you're in this position and you can't take criticism, you're in the wrong job,'' Sather said. ``Whether you like the deal or don't like the deal, we'll find out if it's a good deal.''

Clarke also likes New York's side of the trade.

``This was certainly not a steal (for the Flyers),'' he said. ``The best player in the deal is Lindros. Sather has won five or six cups. You're not going to pull anything over on him.''

The Rangers gave up the 24-year-old Hlavac, who scored 28 goals last season, Johnsson, a 25-year-old, puck-carrying defenseman, and the 20-year-old Brendl, the No. 4 pick in the 1999 draft.

``We think we ended up doing what we hoped to do right from the start, and that was to get some young players,'' Clarke said. ``We wanted to get more scoring into our lineup.''

Clarke was willing to let Lindros wait until he was 31 and able to be an unrestricted free agent. Now that he has finally rid himself of the problem, Clarke doesn't want to think of Lindros again.

``He hurt this organization,'' he said. ``I could care less about him.''

With the Flyers, Lindros had 290 goals and 369 assists. He won the MVP award in 1995, and two years later led the Flyers into his only finals, where they were swept by Detroit.

Sather said he'll be worried about Lindros when he first takes the ice with the Rangers, but not because of his health.

``That's more from anticipation,'' he said. ``He could walk out of the building today and get hit by a cab, get a concussion and he's finished.''

Lindros doesn't plan to shy away from his physical style.

``There's going to be some big hits,'' he said, ``but hopefully I'll be on the right end of 90 percent of them.''