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Attention Sharks fans: The Eagle has landed
By Mark Spiegel, San Jose Correspondent

In a week's time the San Jose Sharks acquired, then (temporarily) lost, one of the NHL's premier goalies.

In a multi-player trade, the Chicago Blackhawks sent sent three-time All-Star and two-time Vezina Trophy goalie Ed Belfour to the Sharks for Ulf Dahlen, Chris Terreri, Michal Sykora, and (if the Sharks can sign Belfour) a conditional second-round pick in the 1998 Entry Draft.

Belfour will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the current season.

One week after joining the Sharks, Belfour suffered a strained medial collateral ligament injury to his right knee. An MRI examination on Sunday determined that an injury that will keep him out of action for up to two-to-three weeks.

Belfour was injured in Saturday's win by the Sharks over Colorado, when he stopped a breakaway by the Avalanche's Rene Corbet. With only minutes remaining in the second period, Corbet broke in on a breakaway and Belfour attempted a quick poke-check. The Eagle's move was successful, as the puck glanced off the crossbar, but Corbet came down on Belfour's right leg.

Belfour remained in the game for the rest of the period, but was replaced by Kelly Hrudey for the third period. "When Eddie came to the bench complaining about his knee with 2-3 minutes left in the period I knew something was up," commented Hrudey after the game.

What prompted this trade in the first place?

For the Blackhawks, Belfour had clearly moved beyond their limits, especially with a lot less expensive Jeff Hackett delivering so far in the Chicago net. Both Belfour and his agent have indicated they expect to get Patrick Roy/Dominik Hasek type money. That would put Belfour in the $4 million-plus-per-year category. With the Blackhawks previously failing to come to agreements with Jeremy Roenick, Joe Murphy and Bernie Nicholls, losing Belfour seemed to fit the current script.

"I had a long talk with Eddie and he was out of our price range," said Hawk GM Bob Pulford.

So why would the Sharks risk getting Belfour for only 40 (now with the injury 30-35) games?

Why? The Sharks believe they can sign Belfour.

"...Once (Belfour) sees the ownership, the area, and the fans we go right to the top of the pack (competing for Belfour)," commented Sharks GM Dean Lombardi. Belfour got his first dose of San Jose during the Colorado game when the fans loudly chanted "Eddie.....Eddie" after several good saves by the new Sharks netminder.

"It was just like the old (Chicago) stadium. I had to calm myself down," a happy Belfour commented after the game.

So, at least initially, Belfour seems perfectly happy in San Jose.

But will the Sharks pay Belfour the money that Chicago wouldn't? "It would be logical to do that if he's as valuable to us as Hasek is to Buffalo," stated Lombardi. Mo' money, no problem...

Add to that a relative buyers' market for goalies. I mean, just how many other teams that are potential Cup contenders are in need of a high-priced goalie? Not many.

So while the Sharks have money and appear willing to engage in a bidding war for the Eagle, they may well not have to.

Of course this was all based upon the assumption that Belfour could play regularly and demonstrate skills deserving of a Hasek-type salary. Now with the injury, all of this is somewhat in doubt.

Acquiring a premier goalie was definitely one of the building blocks the Sharks need in their quest to become a legitimate contender.

Kelly Hrudey is already 36 years old. Hrudey may well not be around when the Sharks finally jell.

Chris Terreri will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. Terreri is an East Coast boy. About the only tan he ever wore was a beige T-shirt. So resigning Terreri for next year was about as likely as finding an LCS staffer sober on a Saturday night.

Goalies in the Sharks prospects pipeline are all several years away from a significant role with the mother club.

Dahlen, with a $1.3 million salary, just wasn't producing, with only eight goals and 11 assists. Fresh surroundings seem to be helping Ulfie as he's scored twice in his first two games with the Hawks. If Dahlen can keep it up he'll add nicely to a somewhat low scoring team.

Michael Sykora, 23, could become the Hawks next Steve Smith, or more likely, the next Ivan Droppa. Sykora has size and decent offensive skills, but plays a rather soft game for his size (6-5, 220). After a strong start this season, Sykora had been riding the press box for most games lately. Sykora has already taken his first step to being a Blackhawk. Michal has dropped the face visor he always wore as a Shark.

So in the final analysis, Chicago got some offensive help, a solid backup goaltender, a blue line prospect and possibly a good draft pick for a goalie they would lose for nothing at season's end. San Jose has the potential for acquiring a premier goalie, something the franchise has lacked all along, to help solidify its defense for the next four or five years.

And Eddie the Eagle? He gets to play in the West Coast version of the old Chicago Stadium. "EDDIE!..........EDDIE!.......EDDIE!.........."

LCS: Guide to Hockey

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