HOCKEY; Arbitrator Sends Stevens To Devils for Shanahan
By ALEX YANNIS
Published: September 4, 1991
Not a single puck has been dropped yet, but the Devils are already big winners in the National Hockey League as a result of an arbitrator's decision.
Judge Edward Houston sent shock waves through the hockey world yesterday by awarding Scott Stevens to the Devils as compensation from St. Louis for the loss of Brendan Shanahan, who had signed with the Blues as a free agent.
The judge's decision to award one of the league's premier defensemen as compensation for Shanahan may have a large impact on free agency in the league. Teams will now have second thoughts about signing free agents with compensation for fear of losing someone better if the case goes to arbitration.
The decision apparently didn't spread much fear among the Rangers, who signed Edmonton's Adam Graves as a free agent with compensation in a move that is not expected to go to arbitration. 'I'm Just Delighted'
Judge Houston, of the Ontario Court of Justice, is the league's only arbitrator for disputes involving the signing of free agents with compensation. When he notified the teams of his decision from his Ottawa office in mid-afternoon yesterday, the Devils were celebrating and the Blues were mourning.
"I'm delighted about the decision," said Lou Lamoriello, the president of the Devils, who had submitted to Houston that Stevens should be the compensation for Shanahan. The Blues had submitted a package of lesser players. "I'm just delighted to have Scott Stevens at our blue line," Lamoriello said. "His record speaks for itself."
The sentiments of the Blues were well conveyed last night by Mike Caruso, a team spokesman who said, "We've got a 22-year-old prospect in Shanahan and we lost our captain." Stevens, who is in Toronto for the Canada Cup, was not taking any telephone calls at his hotel.
The 27-year-old Stevens played eight seasons with the Capitals and was signed as a free agent by the Blues last summer for five first-round selections in the draft. His physical presence makes him effective defensively and offensively. He is regarded so highly in the league that the Blues made him captain in his first season with the team.
Shanahan, a forward, had also been pursued by the Rangers, but Neil Smith, the Rangers' general manager, decided against signing Shanahan for fear of losing one of his more talented players, like Brian Leetch or James Patrick, to the Devils.
Smith's fear was substantiated by Houston, but Smith still took a gamble yesterday, although a somewhat smaller one, by signing Graves from the Oilers. Like Shanahan, Graves is a Type I free agent, which means the Rangers will have to pay compensation to the Oilers.
Smith likes Graves a great deal. He scouted Graves as a junior when Smith was with Detroit in 1986. The Red Wings made Graves their second choice in the draft and 22d over all in 1986. He was sent to Edmonton in 1989 in a package deal that brought Jimmy Carson to Detroit. Pursued by Other Teams'
The acquisition of Graves, or someone who could play center like him, became almost imperative for the Rangers after the loss of Kelly Kisio in the expansion draft and last week's injury to Darren Turcotte, who fractured his wrist playing for the United States in the Canada Cup.
What prompted Smith to sign Graves was the fact that Graves was vigorously pursued by the Flyers and the Kings, among other teams. He is considered a good character player with strong defensive abilities and leadership qualities. If the Rangers fail to work out a compensation agreement with the Oilers and the case goes to Houston, the Rangers could conceivably lose a player of higher value than Graves.
Although Graves had only 7 goals and 18 assists in 76 games last season and has 23 goals in 217 regular-season games in the league, his contract with the Rangers is believed to be triple his $115,000 salary with Edmonton last season.
Blues offered Lou Curtis Joseph, forward Rod Brind'Amour, and two draft picks, but Lou said no and demanded Stevens. BLues didnt have any first round picks having given them to Washington for Stevens, and thus crapped out.
Sad day in Blues history. SAD.