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Tough stance by team

McCarthy comes aboard but Berard will test waters

Sandy McCarthy is coming.

Brian Rolston is staying.

Bryan Berard has been placed in contractual purgatory.

While the Bruins still ponder what to do about shoring up their netminding, a busy day on Causeway Street yesterday added some defintion to the 2003-04 roster. To wit:

* McCarthy, an aging and once-feared pugilist employed the last three years by the sad-sack Rangers, agreed to a one-year deal to apply his black-and-blues to the Black and Gold.

* Rolston, awarded $3.175 million Friday via salary arbitration, was signed to play at least this season for the Bruins, as his date for unrestricted free agency, July 1, 2004, draws near.

* Berard, as expected, saw the Bruins walk away from his $2.51 million arbitration award, his career in Boston put in abeyance while he waits to see whether one of the other 29 NHL teams will offer him something around $2 million or more per year.

"We do like him," said Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell, who, prior to arbitration, offered Berard a two-year guarantee at $1.7 million per season, a 100 percent jump over the defenseman's base pay of last season. "Hopefully, he'll come back to us, but we're not prepared to pay him $2.5 million."

Berard's agent, Tom Laidlaw, said he and his client were in no rush to continue talks with Boston or to accept the club's two-year offer.

"That offer is way below what we're looking for, and for us to run back and accept it . . . I think you have to let it play out, be patient," said Laidlaw.

Laidlaw said he talked with a number of teams yesterday about Berard, and that he wouldn't be surprised if it took until October or after the start of the regular season to obtain a satisfactory offer.

Under collective bargaining agreement regulations, Berard has seven days to accept a qualifying offer of some $940,000 for one year, a 10 percent boost over his 2002-03 base salary. But there's no chance of Berard doing that, because O'Connell said the club's two-year offer remains on the table.

Meanwhile, O'Connell said he spoke again Friday with Ken Holland, the Red Wings general manager, about Curtis Joseph, the $8 million-a-year netminder whom Detroit is certain to deal now that Dominik Hasek is back with the Winged Wheels. According to O'Connell, Holland doesn't expect to do anything with CuJo until late next week.

"It is a big piece," said O'Connell, acknowledging that a number of potential goaltending moves around the league have come to a stalemate while the Wings look for a trade partner. "We'll make sure we stay in touch."

O'Connell said Holland assured him he would contact the Bruins prior to making a move on CuJo, a further indication that the Bruins remain interested in the veteran backstop.

The Bruins are not on the list of teams Joseph has said he would waive his no-trade for, but one GM, requesting anonymity, said a couple of weeks ago that Joseph would be far more accommodating if his 2005-06 option year, worth an additional $8 million, were wrapped into the moving charges. If true, an acquiring club would be staring at a $24 million commitment to add CuJo, a price that most teams, Boston included, would want to diminish by sending a costly player Detroit's way or asking that the Wings pick up part of the $24 million.

McCarthy, 31, spent the last three seasons with the Rangers and signed a one-year deal, believed to be worth about $800,000, to make the Bruins his sixth NHL team. Like many of the league's career pugilists, his willingness to fight has waned significantly in recent years. He had only five fighting majors in 2002-03, his last in January.

"We've talked with him, and he's aware of what we expect," said O'Connell. "Different situations and different teams ask different things."

O'Connell believes McCarthy could do more than fill out a third or fourth line, that he still has the skills to run with Rolston centering a second line or Joe Thornton on the first unit.

McCarthy did not respond to an interview request by the Globe forwarded to him by the Bruins' media relations department.

In the middle of last year, the Bruins hired Krzysztof Oliwa, long a favorite of then-coach Robbie Ftorek, to handle the heavy-bag duties. Oliwa was bought out by the Bruins in June and signed a couple of weeks ago with the Flames.

Another go at it

O'Connell said he intends to make another contract offer to Sergei Samsonov by the end of this week. The Bruins earlier this summer made the Magical Muscovite a qualifying offer, only days after his agent, Neil Abbott, submitted a long-term proposal at figures reflecting the $5 million-plus Thornton will make in 2003-04 . . . On the same day the Bruins walked away from Berard's award, the Rangers learned that defenseman Tom Poti received a two-year arbitration award totaling $5.9 million. Poti's award calls for a $2.8 million salary this season and a $300,000 raise in 2004-05. The Rangers have until Friday to decide whether to accept the award or render Poti an unrestricted free agent . . . Nick Boynton, another valuable part of the Boston back line, remains unsigned. O'Connell sounded confident that he could get him signed.

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