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AUGUST 1999

Team Report: Philadelphia Flyers
South Jeresy Courier-Post (By Chuck Gormley) -- August 23, 1999

Simon Gagne, who has the potential to become the Flyers' brightest star of the new millennium, has signed a three-year contract with the club and will be given every opportunity to make the team when camp opens on September 7. Gagne, 19, is considered the best junior player in North America. A first-round pick (22nd overall) of the Flyers in 1998, he led the Quebec major junior hockey league with 50 goals and 70 assists last season as a center for the Quebec Remparts.

To be effective with the Flyers, however, Gagne would need to play as a second-line center behind captain Eric Lindros and ahead of Rod Brind'Amour and Daymond Langkow. For Gagne to beat out Brind'Amour, he will need to dominate during the Flyers' preseason. Otherwise, he would be better off returning for a third season with the Remparts. Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said it was important to sign Gagne, because he would have become a restricted free agent after this season if he returned to Quebec unsigned.

"We think Simon has a chance of playing in the NHL next year," Clarke said. "If our team can give him enough ice time, at least we got him under contract. Certainly, going back to junior (league) is what's probably going to happen. But when you have a player this good, you want him under contract just so you can have some say in his development."

Gagne said recently that he has every intention of making the Flyers this season but would have no problem returning to Quebec, where he would likely be named captain of the Canadian national junior team.

The Flyers are taking a cautionary approach to Gagne's situation because of their past experience with Dainius Zubrus. A first-round pick in 1996, Zubrus made the club the following fall as an 18-year-old. But after struggling on the Flyers' top two lines, managing just eight goals in each of his first two seasons, Zubrus was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Mark Recchi.

Reportedly, Gagne has more finesse than Zubrus. A shifty skater with good acceleration, he is just as adept at giving a pass as he is finishing off a play. Like Zubrus, he is a good checker, although at 6-0, 175 pounds, he is not considered a physical player.

"Simon obviously is a very, very talented player," Clarke said. "He would need to play a lot, and we'll give him a good look. Most guys do go back (to the junior league), but if he's good enough, he'll stick."

With Gagne signed, the Flyers now are down to two unsigned restricted free agents -- forwards Valeri Zelepukin and Langkow. Clarke said he spoke with Zelepukin's agent, Mark Gandler, last week, and the two will speak through the end of August.

Clarke said he hopes to have both Zelepukin and Langkow under contract by the end of this month. He said he has had no recent contract discussions with unrestricted free agent Craig Berube. ...

Flyers left winger John LeClair suffered a back injury during off-ice training earlier this month and last week visited a back specialist in Los Angeles.

LeClair said the injury is "no big deal" and that he expects to be fine when training camp begins. But the fact he needed to see a specialist two weeks after sustaining the injury -- along with the fact he missed several games down the stretch last season with back pain -- does not bode well for the burly winger. ...

In other injury news, defenseman Eric Desjardins is working out at the Flyers' training facility in South Jersey, testing his reconstructed left knee. Desjardins said his knee is "as strong as it's going to be," but that his left quadriceps muscle is still weak.

"My leg lost a lot of strength because of surgery," Desjardins said. "(On a scale of 1 to 10), it's about 7.5 compared to other one."

Desjardins said he hopes to be 100 percent by the Flyers' October 1 season opener. ...

Goaltender Ron Hextall said he is still weighing an offer from another NHL club to extend his playing career. Hextall, 35, has been offered a pro scouting position with the Flyers and is uncertain whether to continue his playing career in another city.


19-year-old Gagne inks 3-year deal with Flyers
Frank Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Inquirer -- August 20, 1999

Fourteen months after the Flyers made the high-scoring center their top pick in the 1998 draft, Simon Gagne signed a three-year deal with the team yesterday.

The Flyers did not reveal details, but sources familiar with the negotiations indicated that the 19-year-old native of Sainte Foy, Quebec, would receive $975,000 a season, the maximum allowed in any year of a rookie contract.

He also had been seeking a signing bonus of $1 million and performance bonuses worth between $200,000 and $400,000.

His agent, former NHL goaltender Bob Sauve, did not return telephone calls.

"Simon is a very talented player and probably one of the top prospects in Canadian junior hockey right now," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "He has the potential to play in the NHL in the very near future. He has a chance of making our club this season, but we would need to be certain that he would get enough ice time to further his development."

When Gagne and the Flyers failed to reach an agreement last year, the draft's 22d pick overall returned to junior hockey, recording team highs with 50 goals and 70 assists for the Quebec Ramparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The Flyers retained his rights until June 2000, and before negotiations concluded yesterday, they had received inquiries about the 6-foot, 185-pound center from several NHL clubs, according to Clarke.

Gagne will report to the team when the Flyers' training camp opens Sept. 7 in Peterborough, Ontario.


TEAM SIGNS TOP PICK FROM '98
Philadelphia Daily News (By Les Bowen) -- August 20, 1999

As expected, the Flyers have signed 1998 first-round draft pick Simon Gagne. Whether he becomes a factor in their plans for the 1999-2000 season now is largely up to Gagne, Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said yesterday. Gagne, who turns 20 in February, isn't eligible to play for the Phantoms this season - he'll either make the Flyers or play another year of junior for the Quebec Remparts.

"He has a chance of playing in the NHL (this) year," Clarke said. "Certainly, going back to junior is probably what's going to happen. But when you have a player that's this good, you want him under contract."

Clarke said training camp, which opens Sept. 8 in Peterborough, Ontario, will determine whether Gagne is a Flyer this season. Certainly, the team could use his skills. He scored 50 goals and 120 points in 61 games last season in junior, and was widely acclaimed as one of the top players at that level.

But the Flyers felt they rushed 1996 first-rounder Dainius Zubrus, who regressed for two seasons before being traded to Montreal in March, and they don't want to make that mistake again. Also, Gagne's best position is center, where the Flyers already have Eric Lindros, Rod Brind'Amour and Daymond Langkow, although Langkow isn't yet signed for this season. (Clarke wouldn't use the signing of Gagne as leverage against Langkow, now, would he? Of course not. Perish the thought).

Clarke said that Gagne is "probably one of the most talented guys in Canada at the junior age. He's going to play lots of exhibition games. We'll give him a good look. But the odds are, for most of these kids, that they'll go back to junior."

Agent Bob Sauve could not be reached for comment. Gagne will make the rookie maximum of $975,000 per year, if he plays in the NHL, on a mandatory three-year contract. He also will get unspecified performance bonuses that were a sticking point in the negotiations.

Clarke said he expects to speak with agent Mark Gandler on Monday about signing Flyers restricted free agent winger Valeri Zelepukin, whose total of 16 goals last season was his highest since 1993- 94. Clarke said he also will try to get Langkow's deal done next week. He said he has had no further talks on a contract for unrestricted free agent Craig Berube.


FLYERS SIGN CENTRE SIMON GAGNÉ
The Philadelphia Flyers -- August 20, 1999

The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that they have signed center Simon Gagne to a three-year contract, according to club President and General Manager Bob Clarke. Terms of the contract were not disclosed in accordance with club policy.

"Simon is a very talented player and probably one of the top prospects in Canadian junior hockey right now," said Clarke in making the announcement. "He has the potential to play in the NHL in the very near future. He has a chance of making our club this season, but we would need to be certain that he would get enough ice time to further his development. Simon will get every opportunity to display his skills during Training Camp and we will get a good idea of where he stands through his play in preseason games."

Gagne, 19, recorded 50 goals and 70 assists for 120 points and 42 penalty minutes in 61 games for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He led the Remparts in assists (70) and in points (120). His 50 goals were tied for first on the team and he finished second in plus/minus (+53, tied for third in the QMJHL). Gagne also finished in the top ten of several offensive categories for the QMJHL; goals - tied for fifth, assists - seventh, points - sixth. He was named to the QMJHL’s Second All-Star Team following the 1998-99 season. He was also a member of the silver-medal winning Canadian National Team in the 1999 World Junior Championship Tournament. A native of Ste. Foy, Quebec, Gagne recorded eight points (7G,1A) in seven games for Team Canada. His seven goals led the Tournament.

In three seasons in the QMJHL, Gagne has registered 89 goals and 131 assists for 220 points and 117 penalty minutes in 165 games. The 6'0", 185-pound center was drafted from Quebec by the Flyers in the first round (22nd overall) of the 1998 NHLEntry Draft.


TRAINING CAMP '99
The Quebec Remparts (Thanks Ju!) -- August 14, 1999

The Remparts season has begun! Click Here to download it onto your computer. Click below for a map of the region.