SUN Hockey Pool

Cujo is still a stray dog

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Mesh madness is wrapping up in the National Hockey League, but former Maple Leaf Curtis Joseph has yet to find a new hemp hut.

Within the past week, Nikolai Khabibulin has departed the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for a new test in Chicago, Sean Burke replaced him and displaced Blackhawk Jocelyn Thibault was flipped to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who needed a mentor for Marc Andre Fleury.

At least Robert Esche is staying put, the Philadelphia Flyers signing him last night for two years, after general manager Bob Clarke threatened to use unproven Antero Niittymaki as the starter, rather than meet Esche's request for a substantial raise.

Joseph, 38, was in the running in Pittsburgh, but that door has closed, while his old job in Detroit is up for grabs between Manny Legace and Chris Osgood, the latter reinstated after three years on Long Island and in St. Louis.

"You're right that Curtis doesn't have a home yet, but I'm talking to a couple of teams and I hope to have something at the end of the week," agent Don Meehan said yesterday.

CROSBY MOBBED

If Sidney Crosby had any doubts about his impact on the city of Pittsburgh, the hockey phenom from Cole Harbour, N.S., found out firsthand last night.

The first overall pick in the draft was greeted at the airport by a throng of media and fans as he made his first trip to the city.

"I never try to expect anything, I just go along with it, but as far as this is concerned, it's pretty welcoming to see this many people here," said Crosby."

SENS RE-SIGN HAVLAT

The Ottawa Senators have re-signed right-winger Martin Havlat to a $2.6-million US, one-year contract and centre Mike Fisher to a three-year deal that will pay him $1.5 million next season.

CAPS AT WITT'S END

Defenceman Brendan Witt has been asking the Washington Capitals to trade him since he went to salary arbitration (and won) last summer, but now Caps' GM George McPhee has promised to accomodate the request to move.

Witt is in the $1.7 million US salary range, but his stock has dropped a bit the past couple of years, since his more experienced blueline partner, Calle Johansson, faded into retirement. Witt also acts as his own agent, which could lead to some confusion for teams seeking to negotiate.

BRIEFLY

Free agent Alex Mogilny's name has been linked to the Florida Panthers and the Capitals. But if Washington goes for a proven winger, there's fan clamour to bring career Cap Peter Bondra back from the Ottawa Senators, instead of banking that ex-Leaf Mogilny's hip surgery is healed ... Dave Lewis, displaced as Red Wings' coach by Mike Babcock, will now scout for the team ... Roman Turek has retired from the NHL and the Calgary Flames, but will play in his native Czech Republic.


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