Avalanche get Claude Lemieux in 3-way trade

The Associated Press

UNIONDALE, N.Y. Three disgruntled NHL forwards are changing addresses.

When Tuesday's trading flurry ended, the Colorado Avalanche had Claude Lemieux, the New York Islanders had Wendel Clark and the New Jersey Devils had Steve Thomas.

''This was a no-lose situation for us,'' Islanders general manager Don Maloney said.

The Islanders were at the hub of the wheeling and dealing. They first sent Thomas to the Devils for Lemieux, then immediately dispatched Lemieux to Colorado for Clark.

''We weren't interested in Claude Lemieux, quite frankly,'' Maloney said. ''He's a right wing and we have several right wings.''

After a lackluster regular season, Lemieux scored 13 postseason goals to lead the Devils to their first NHL championship, and was named postseason MVP in the process.

But the 30-year-old right wing angered New Jersey management by challenging the validity of a contract he faxed to the team in the offseason, then failing to report to camp because of the dispute.

Lemieux had been suspended since the opening of training camp nearly three weeks ago, losing $80,916 in salary. On Friday, arbitrator George Nicolau ruled the fax of the contract Lemieux signed was valid.

Breaking into the NHL in the 1985-86 season with Montreal, Lemieux was traded to New Jersey before the 1990-91 season. Last year, he had six goals and 13 assists in 45 regular-season games, bringing his career record to 222 goals and 226 assists.

''We have been trying very hard to acquire this type of player over the last few months,'' Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said. ''Claude Lemieux is a hardnose player who comes to play every game.''

Thomas, a restricted free agent, refused to report to training camp, demanding a new $1.7 million-a-year contract and forcing the Islanders' move.

''One of the considerations of the deal is that Steve Thomas said through his agent (Larry Kelly) that he would never again play for the New York Islanders,'' Maloney said.

New Jersey immediately signed the 32-year-old Thomas to a multiyear contract. Terms of the agreement were not announced.

Entering his 11th NHL season, Thomas has played with Toronto, Chicago and the Islanders, totaling 269 goals and 308 assists. He has scored 40 or more goals in a season twice and 30 or more goals five times.

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