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As it turned out, the three-way deal actually had a fourth component. And, as of Saturday, that was one too many dominoes that had to fall in line for Keith Tkachuk to become a Ranger.

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos' personal stand against giving center Keith Primeau the contract he wants -- and his long-stated lack of interest in Rangers center Petr Nedved -- has put the brakes on the three-way deal that would have brought Tkachuk to New York.

Not only that, Karmanos reportedly squashed an agreed-to trade with the Flyers that would have sent center Rod Brind'Amour to Carolina in a package for Primeau on Saturday.

"I think everybody recognizes that (Karmanos) has made this personal and for whatever reason he's taking it out on me personally," Primeau said.

According to several team and league sources, Karmanos is adamant that Primeau, the former Hurricanes captain and restricted free agent, not be signed to a deal in excess of the two-year, $7-million offer Carolina last made to him. And Karmanos will not approve any trade for Primeau's rights unless the team winding up with the 28-year-old center agrees in writing not to exceed that ceiling.

What's more, Karmanos is said to have sought written guarantees from any potential trading partner that if Primeau were signed to an acceptable-to-him contract now and then had that deal renegotiated later, the Hurricanes would be owed extra draft picks as compensation.

While those demands might sound both unreasonable and at odds with the best competitive interests of a reeling Carolina team, they don't violate the letter of the collective bargaining agreement. That CBA, agreed to by the NHL and the Players Association in 1995, provides owners with fairly sweeping control over players until they reach the unrestricted free agency age of 31.

Thus, the contractual ball was in Primeau's court Saturday night -- he either had to agree to sign for those Karmanos-mandated numbers or continue sitting out as he has ever since the season began.

But the trading ball had been taken out of the Rangers' hands. That is because Karmanos' unwillingness to take Nedved (and Manny Malhotra) in a Primeau deal blocked the triggering move that would have enabled the Rangers to send Primeau and another player -- believed to be winger Radek Dvorak -- to Phoenix for Tkachuk.

And since the Coyotes have little interest in accepting a Nedved-featured package for Tkachuk, the Rangers were left without a way to get the power left winger.

Habs, Stars swing deal

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens traded center Scott Thornton to the Dallas Stars for left wing Juha Lind on Saturday.

Thornton hasn't played since Jan. 15, when he took a five-minute penalty for running an opponent from behind late in a 2-2 tie against the Boston Bruins. He has two goals and three assists in 35 games.

Lind has three goals and four assists in 34 games. Around the league

St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis will miss at least three weeks with a collapsed lung. MacInnis, the Norris Trophy winner last year as the NHL's top defenseman, underwent a procedure Saturday to reinflate the collapsed lung, suffered the previous night in the Blues' 3-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Ottawa Senators center Magnus Arvedson underwent surgery Saturday to repair torn intestines. Arvedson was injured Thursday night when he was checked into an open bench doorway by Philadelphia's Marc Bureau. He collapsed twice before he could be helped off the ice.

Boston Bruins center Jason Allison said there is a chance he might postpone tendon transplant surgery on his right forearm and return to the ice once his ailing thumb heals. Allison has been recuperating from surgery on his left thumb. But even if he decides to postpone the arm surgery, it could be as many as eight weeks before the thumb heals enough for Allison to play.

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