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Starless Islanders May Have Plans for Roenick

Today

Lightning at Isles

7:30 p.m.

TV: FSNY

Radio: WJWR (620)

Despite general manager Mike Milbury's announcement last week that he plans

to stay the course with his team, there is a growing sense that change is

indeed what is needed for the reeling Islanders, who look to stop an eight-game

losing streak tonight at Nassau Coliseum against the team against which it

began, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The historically impatient Milbury, however, may be waiting for a bigger

prize to become available in the near future, thus keeping him from making any

knee-jerk deals, no matter how desperate the situation becomes. The one player

a few league sources recently have mentioned should be the Islanders' prime

target is Phoenix center Jeremy Roenick.

The purchase of the Coyotes by real estate mogul Steve Ellman and partner

Wayne Gretzky is expected to be completed and approved next month. In fact, the

paperwork to finally complete the $87-million sale was in Gary Bettman's

office at the NHL headquarters in Manhattan this week. With that, one person

with knowledge of the new ownership's plans said that after the team signs

unrestricted free agent Claude Lemiuex and holdout goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to

contracts, as expected, the team will need to cut at least $8 million in

salary. It has been widely speculated that one of the team's top two players,

Roenick ($5 million this season) or Keith Tkachuk ($8.3 million) will have to

go.

Enter Milbury, who coveted Roenick, 30, a few seasons ago and would love to

add the Boston native to his starless team and to his top line with Brad

Isbister and Mariusz Czerkawski. Of course he'll probably have to outbid

Roenick's old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, who reportedly also are interested.

Roenick becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Rangers have an interest in Tkachuk.

Meanwhile, the Islanders' most tradable asset, defenseman Kenny Jonsson,

continues to garner interest from around the league, more so now after he has

been relieved of the captaincy. The Detroit Red Wings, who will be without

defenseman Chris Chelios (knee) for a large portion of the season, are

interested in adding a player of Jonsson's talent. The Florida Panthers are, as

well. Both teams considered deals to acquire the 26-year-old defenseman late

last season.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the Islanders have kept a

dialogue with the forward-laden Toronto Maple Leafs, who might not be

interested in parting with center Igor Korolev but would love to unload left

wing Dmitri Khristich, who has been awful since he signed a four-year,

$10.29-million contract last season. It's hard to imagine Milbury would want to

add the sourpuss Khristich. Yanic Perreault, a lefty center, seems to be the

more favorable target. Veteran Steve Thomas, who played for the Islanders from

1991-95, might also be available.

New York Sports