Lindros signs one-year deal with Stars

DALLAS -- After years of high hopes and high drama, Eric Lindros could've been excused for letting out a sigh of relief Monday after signing a one-year bargain deal with the Dallas Stars.

His arrival in Dallas is nothing like his anxiously awaited NHL debut in Philadelphia, his move to the bright lights of New York and the Rangers or the buzz of joining his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs last year.

With the Stars, Lindros is viewed as a complementary player, not a savior. The team has been a perennial contender without him, thanks to established stars such as Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Marty Turco.

Throw in the fact hockey draws fewer headlines and less chatter on sport-talk shows in Dallas than in other cities he's played, plus the challenge of playing in the Western Conference for the first time, and it all adds up to what Lindros called "a good fit."

"It's not a financial decision by any stretch of the imagination," Lindros said on a conference call with reporters. "It's something that felt really good in my heart. ... Things just seemed to line up."

Serving as his own agent, Lindros took a $1.55 million base salary with incentives that could hike the deal by another million. There are bonuses for games played starting at 50 and for success in the playoffs.

The Stars have been consistent division winners but haven't made it past the second round since reaching consecutive Stanley Cup finals in 1999 and 2000. They were ousted in the first round this past season.

Dallas needed someone with Lindros' size (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) and scoring touch after losing Jason Arnott in free agency. The former MVP was available -- and for so cheap -- because teams were wary of relying on someone who has missed so many games with injuries.

The 33-year-old Lindros played only 33 games last season because of a wrist problem. Concussions have been his nemesis, as he has sustained at least eight. He missed the 2000-01 season because of a hard hit by New Jersey's Scott Stevens during a playoff game the season before.

"There are certain risks involved in this ... but you're going to have to put some faith out there," Stars general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Some of our faith came from our day spent with him. After spending a few hours together, you could tell where his head and heart were."

Lindros said he feels good now and hopes to continue offseason workouts in Dallas long before training camp. He's considering moving to Texas in August so his kids can get into school at the start of the semester.

"I think I can play at a high level," he said. "I think it starts with mentally being prepared, feeling good not just about yourself but about the scenario you're in. I think all that is going for me right now."

Lindros said he was wooed by Edmonton, and Toronto talked about keeping him. But the more he learned about the Stars, the more interested he became. In addition to visiting Dallas, he called current and former Stars players, including Arnott, to check out the organization and coach Dave Tippett, who'd been Lindros' teammate on the 1992 Canadian Olympic team and in Philadelphia.

Armstrong said a one-year contract worked for both sides, in part because of the salary cap. But he added that he told Lindros, "I'm looking at this as the first year of a longer-term relationship."

Lindros has been an All-Star in six of his 12 seasons, winning the MVP award in 1995 and then scoring a career-best 115 points the following season. Even in limited play last season, he had 11 goals
and 11 assists.

In 711 NHL games, Lindros tallied 367 goals and 472 assists.

Hailed as the next Wayne Gretzky when he entered the league, Lindros left the Flyers on poor terms, bickering with management primarily over the medical treatment he received. He played three years for the Rangers and then one for the Maple Leafs.

"It was fun, I had a good time," Lindros said of playing for the team he rooted for growing up. "I wish that injury didn't happen, but I'm moving on."

Before this move, Dallas had signed forwards Jeff Halpern and Matthew Barnaby and traded for defenseman Darryl Sydor this offseason. The club lost Arnott, Bill Guerin and defenseman Willie Mitchell.

"It's not as much about making a splash," Armstrong said of the Lindros signing. "It's putting the correct piece in the puzzle and that completes the puzzle for the summer."