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Rangers give up on Holik

New York buys out contract at deadline

The Rangers bought out the remaining two years on Bobby Holik's contract yesterday, sending the gritty forward away without a playoff appearance in New York.

Before the 2002-03 season, Holik was given a five-year, $45 million contract by the Rangers, who pried him away from the New Jersey Devils -- the team with whom he won two Stanley Cup titles. But he failed to reach the playoffs with the Rangers -- he had 41 goals and 50 assists in 146 games -- who haven't qualified for postseason play since 1997. New Jersey went on to win a third championship without Holik in 2003.

Holik, 34, is now an unrestricted free agent and will be able to sign with any team -- other than the Rangers -- once the signing period begins Monday.

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to buy out players without it counting against the salary cap.

Other buyouts yesterday:

Matt Johnson by the Minnesota Wild. He was due $874,000 a season over the next two years.

Defenseman Mathieu Biron by the Florida Panthers. He was slated to earn $1.06 million this season.

Holik, Biron and Johnson joined John LeClair, Tony Amonte, Derian Hatcher, Darren McCarty, Ray Whitney, Pierre Turgeon, and Brian Savage among the small group of players bought out during the six-day period.

Leafs, Nolan dispute injury

The Toronto Maple Leafs are embroiled in a battle with injured winger Owen Nolan.He was not officially bought out yesterday because the Leafs have determined that Nolan does not have the right to exercise his $5.6 million option for 2005-06 because they feel he suffered an injury on his own time during the lockout. In their opinion, Nolan therefore becomes an unrestricted free agent come Monday and the Leafs don't owe him a dime.

The Nolan camp will grieve that decision, arguing Nolan's right knee injury -- which required surgery Tuesday in Cleveland -- was a re-occurrence of the same injury he first suffered during the 2003-04 season.

Should Nolan win his grievance his $5.6 million deal for this season will count. Sources indicate the Leafs have made arrangements with the league that Nolan would be bought out if they lose the grievance.

Ducks re-sign Ozolinsh

Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh agreed to terms of a two-year contract with the Mighty Ducks. Ozolinsh was acquired from Florida in January 2003 before Anaheim's run to the Stanley Cup finals and had six assists and 8 points in the playoffs. In 2003-04, he was limited to 36 games after surgery to repair a pectoral muscle tear . . . The New York Islanders signed backup goalie Garth Snow to a three-year deal. Snow, who turned 36 Thursday, is 40-39-12 in three seasons with the Islanders. He will play behind Rick DiPietro . . . The Carolina Hurricanes acquired defensemen Mike Commodore and Andrew Hutchinson for a pair of third-round picks in today's NHL draft. The Hurricanes acquired Commodore from Calgary for the 69th overall pick and then dealt the 78th pick to Nashville for Hutchinson. Both players provide size and youth to the Hurricanes' defense. Commodore, 25, had six goals and 29 assists for the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL last season. Calgary and Carolina share the minor league team . . . The Wild re-signed veteran Alexandre Daigle. The 30-year-old right wing played in 78 games for the Wild in the 2003-2004 season, his first with the team, and led the club with 20 goals, 51 points, and 12 multipoint games. Daigle finished second among Wild players with 31 assists and six power-play goals.

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