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SALARY BAR IS RAISED BY FLYERS' NEW OFFER TO LINDROS

A deal set forth by the Philadelphia Flyers for Eric Lindros is likely to push hockey's salary structure even higher.

Sources say the pact is less than the $50 million over five years that was originally reported, but it's still worth about $42 million over that span and the bonusstructure could net Lindros the $50 million if he hits MVP-like numbers and the Flyers again get close to the Stanley Cup.

General manager Bob Clarke is on record as stating he wants a framework of an agreement before camp opens and has hinted broadly that if he doesn't get it, he'll consider trading Lindros rather than let him become even a restricted free agent.

He's probably serious and rumors of deals that would send Lindros to Toronto for Mats Sundin or to Phoenix for Keith Tkachuk have been buzzing around the NHL all summer.

Still, the Lindros camp isn't feeling the pressure. Clarke's proposal is some 200 pages long and Lindros' father/agent Carl and the family attorney are taking their time reviewing it.

The betting around the NHL is that the Lindros group will tweak a few numbers to save face but that they won't turn down the deal.

Dudley, Martin talk new deal

Former Sabres coach and current Ottawa Senators general manager Rick Dudley is involved in his first truly major negotiation, but it doesn't involve a player. Dudley is trying to sign coach Jacques Martin to a contract extension. Martin, who has guided the once-hapless franchise to two straight playoff appearances (including a first-round upset of the New Jersey Devils last season), is among the lowest-paid coaches in the NHL ($350,000 Canadian). He's looking to move into mid-range with a three-year deal that will pay him $600,000, $800,000 and $900,000 (U.S.).

The Senators haven't balked at the figures, but they will have to scramble to find the cash. The franchise remains dirt-poor by NHL standards and the weakening Canadian dollar is making committing to long-term deals difficult.

Murphy may head north

The inability to get Martin's deal done has postponed the hiring of an assistant coach to replace the departed Craig Ramsay. Insiders suggest Martin wants to hire former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Murphy, but Murphy wants to be certain Martin is going to be there for a while before giving up the remaining money in his Toronto pact. Ramsay left the Senators when his contract expired and has reunited with his old mentor, Roger Neilson, in Philadelphia.

Gretzkys go south

The Buffalo Sabres never got much for the third-round draft pick they spent on Wayne Gretzky's brother Keith in the 1985 entry draft, but Keith never gave up on hockey.

The younger Gretzky is a coach in the United Hockey League and recently signed his brother to a contract. No, not Wayne, Brent. Younger than both Wayne and Keith, Brent recently agreed to play for his brother's Ashville Smoke team in Ashville, N.C.

Nolan's balloon deflates

Initially, Ted Nolan's name was floating about for a job with Colin Campbell, the NHL's new vice president and director of hockey operations.

Insiders say Campbell shied away from Nolan after a trial balloon floated in a Canadian newspaper didn't sit well with NHL general managers.

As a result, Campbell settled on former NHL player Claude Loiselle as an assistant. Loiselle will serve as a liaison with NHL general managers and monitor the league's agreements with junior hockey leagues and salary arbitration issues. He replaces David Nonis, who left the post to follow Brian Burke, the man Campbell replaces, to Vancouver.

Rice injured in boat accident

Ottawa goalie Ron Tugnutt wasn't the only player injured in a boating accident last week.

Tugnutt, who suffered broken ribs in the crash, was with Carolina Panthers forward Steve Rice. Rice was shaken up when the 33-foot boat ran aground in Northern Ontario, but has no broken bones and is expected to report to training camp on time. Neither player was driving the craft.

Burnett returns to NHL

George Burnett, coach of the old Niagara Falls Thunder in the Ontario Hockey League when former Sabre Brad May played there, is finally getting a second chance at an NHL job. Burnett will join the staff of Craig Hartsburg with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Burnett did have a kick at an NHL head-coaching job with Edmonton a few years back, but was fired during a falling out with general manager Glen Sather. Burnett won a Calder Cup with Cape Breton before being hired by the Oilers, but that was a hire orchestrated by team owner Peter Pocklington. Sather wanted Ron Low, who is the coach now.

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