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Sabres Central

Peca and Lindros left out in the cold
By Rick Anderson
March 13, 2001

The National Hockey League has gotten its message across. They are standing firm against players like Michael Peca and Eric Lindros in salary disputes and their respective teams are willing to go the limit if necessary to prove their point. At 3 PM Tuesday, the NHL trading deadline ended and two of the most highly sought after players were left standing on the sidelines.

Michael Peca's playing days with the Sabres are over
[Sabres Photo]

Both Lindros and Peca had been involved in trade rumors that had each of them going to numerous teams. After the deadline came and passed, both players now find themselves in a state of limbo. Neither knows what the future holds for them. Lindros had been rumored to go to Toronto and the deal was almost complete a couple weeks ago when Flyers' GM Bob Clarke suddenly pulled the reigns in on the trade. On Monday, Lindros was in St. Louis going through and examination by the Blues in preparation for a trade to that team. Many other teams were also interested in both Peca and Lindros. When the clock struck 3 Tuesday afternoon, both players had their hearts sink as they realized that this season was now finished and possibly the next few seasons as well if the management of their respective teams continue to play hard ball.

"I think it is pretty clear that they were determined to teach me a lesson in some respects," said a frustrated Peca. "I think there was a lot of pressure from the league to make sure that this sort of thing (I don't think it is common practice, but it's going to happen) just to try to get that message across. I think a lot of people are involved in it. I think the management is involved, I think the ownership is very involved, so there is not one person you can point the finger to but a collection of people."

It was apparent that the league owners were determined to draw their line in the sand and make examples out of Peca and Lindros. With escalating salaries threatening the financial structure of the entire league, it was obvious that the league wanted to take this hard stance against the two restricted free agents who had gone public in their complaints against their team's negotiating procedures.

"This is a case where there was never a serious intention from the Sabres in negotiations from the outset and that hurt me a lot," revealed Peca. "I was very proud of my contributions here and proud to be the captain of the Buffalo Sabres. But I was very disappointed the way things played out and the way I was treated in all this. I just couldn't see it in my heart to come back and play for this organization. This city is always going to be our home. My wife is from here and we're going to be living here in the off seasons and after my career is done. It has nothing to do with the city or the players or the coaches. It's an organization that I don't feel is in the best interest for me playing for them."

The Sabres could have easily signed Peca before the season began if they had not followed the "get tough" policy against Peca. The same was true with Lindros, but in his case, the Flyers were not sure about his concussion syndrome, and that played a big part in their thinking.

Asked if the NHL will get their message across with the tough stances that the Flyers and Sabres took with Lindros and himself, Peca said, "It has happened once or twice before. Players are going to stick to their principals. If they feel that in the market place their value is where they think it is, players have that conviction. But obviously, like everything else, different players have a different sort of principals than other people, so it is hard to tell."

Now the season is over for Peca. He told the team a couple months ago to give his captaincy to another player on the team. After what happened Tuesday, the Sabres will probably assign the "C" to another veteran on the team, most likely Stu Barnes.

While the Sabres may have helped out the league with their tough stance against Peca, they have not helped the team shore up for the playoffs. Even though they did get former Sabres Donald Audette back, along with Steve Hines, the Sabres could have improved themselves even more by getting equal value for Peca. Sabres GM Darcy Regier said early on Tuesday that the Sabres were not going to trade Peca until the summer as they could get better value for their dollar than they were being offered at this time.

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