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Shanahan: Have goals, will travel

by Chuck Gormley /
His name is Brendan Shanahan, author of 650 goals, 1,340 points and one of the founding fathers of the new NHL.

Very soon he will be coming to a hockey arena near you.

But which one?

The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, where he tormented Flyers fans for years as a member of the Devils, Blues, Whalers, Red Wings and Rangers?

The Prudential Center in Newark, where he would be reunited with Lou Lamoriello and Devils teammates who were in diapers when Shanny last played there in 1991?

The Scottrade Center in St. Louis, which has been renamed twice (Kiel Center and Savvis Center) since Shanahan helped open its doors in 1994?

The United Center in Chicago, which was built 7 years after Shanahan first played at the old Chicago Stadium in 1987?

Maybe Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, one of the few NHL arenas that have been in operation as long as the soon-to-be 40-year-old Shanahan?

One thing is clear as the Shanny Sweepstakes kick into high gear. The future Hall of Famer's plans of retiring a New York Ranger have been dramatically altered.

"He scored goals for us, was deadly on the power play, killed penalties well," Rangers coach Tom Renney told reporters last week. "He thinks he can play and I don't disagree with that.

"At this point in time, we're going in a different direction. Does he have value to us? Yeah, he would. But under the circumstances today, it was pretty difficult to see him fitting in."

Three factors -- the emergence of left wings Markus Naslund and Aaron Voros; a 11-5-1 start by the Rangers, and a payroll brushing up against the NHL salary ceiling -- conspired against Shanahan, who waited patiently for the Rangers to offer a 1-year contract.

When 3 weeks of the NHL season were already in the history books and Shanahan was still skating on his own at the Rangers' practice rink in Greenburgh, N.Y., Shanahan and his agent decided to implement Plan B. That plan apparently included phone calls to teams like the Flyers, Blues, Devils and Penguins.

"Brendan did not want to tease those teams or use them, feeling very strongly he would be with the New York Rangers," his agent, Rick Curran said. "Once Brendan grew tired of waiting, we started to get back to the teams that showed interest."

The struggling Flyers have been the most enthusiastic, at least publicly, about adding Shanahan to a team that fell short against the Penguins in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

"We want to win here," said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren, who was the general manager in Hartford when Shanahan joined the Whalers in 1994. "We want to be a competitive team that's going to win. If you have a chance to add a player of Brendan's stature, you have to look at it and see if you can get it done."

Like the Rangers, the Flyers are also near the NHL salary cap and are at the NHL limit with 50 players under contract. But with defensemen Randy Jones, Ryan Parent and Derian Hatcher on long-term injury, the Flyers could fit Shanahan onto their roster and shed salary once their defensemen return.

"We would have to negotiate some kind of a number first and then see where we're at (against the cap)," Holmgren said. "There would have to be some hoops to jump through to get it done."


Holmgren believes Shanahan, who won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and has netted 20 or more goals in 19 straight seasons, will provide instant accountability and credibility to any team he joins.

"Money is not the reason he wants to play this season," Holmgren said. "Brendan is a solid two-way player who can still produce. He has good leadership, he has strong character and he has a presence in the locker room."

Of course, Holmgren is not the only general manager who feels that way. Blues President John Davidson said last week he is also looking into coaxing Shanahan to return to the city he made home from 1991-95.

Davidson and Shanahan were part of the committee that helped reshape the NHL during the 2004-05 lockout. Both were instrumental in ridding the NHL of much of the clutching and grabbing that slowed the game earlier this decade.

"He's won championships with good organizations. When people like that are available, you have to explore it and try and improve your team."
-- Blues President John Davidson

Davidson was one of several NHL general managers who pursued Shanahan when he became a free agent July 1, but was told his first preference was to remain in the Big Apple.

"The thing about Brendan, he's a very mature hockey player," Davidson said then. "He's won championships with good organizations. When people like that are available, you have to explore it and try and improve your team."

The Penguins, who are also near the salary limit, could use some firepower on the left side, where Maxime Talbot, Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis and Eric Godard have combined for 8 goals while patrolling the wing. But like the Rangers and Flyers, the Pens have cap issues and have been mum on their interest in Shanahan.

Lamoriello has been equally quiet in the Devils' interest in the player they drafted second overall in 1987. Shanahan was believed to be on the Devils' free-agent wish list during the summer, but with a current lineup of Zach Parise, Brian Gionta, Jay Pandolfo and Mike Rupp on the left side, they appear solid from top to bottom.

Curran said that regardless of where Shanahan signs, he will be ready to put up similar numbers to the ones he produced for the Rangers last season, when knee problems limited him to 23 goals and 23 assists in 73 games.

"If there was a problem last year, it's that Brendan got hurt and played through it when he probably shouldn't have," Curran said. "If Brendan didn't believe he was capable of providing something to a team he wouldn't be doing this. He's as competitive as he's ever been. It's not like he's sitting and doing nothing, He could be ready in 2 or 3 days."

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