In Sports from United Press International

March 6, 2003 at 7:36 AM
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Leafs trade for Nolan

TORONTO, March 5 (UPI) -- Toronto finally landed a big fish Wednesday, acquiring San Jose captain Owen Nolan for centers Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes and a 2003 first-round draft pick.

After losing out in the free-agent bidding for Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis, and making unsuccessful trade proposals for Alexei Kovalev, Vaclav Varada, and Dmitry Yushkevich, the Maple Leafs got Nolan, a premier power forward.

Despite a sluggish start, he has 22 goals, 20 assists, and 91 penalty minutes in 61 games. In Toronto, he will be reunited with Pat Quinn, who coached him last year on the Canadian Olympic team.

"This was a difficult deal to make since we gave up good, young, quality players and quality people, but we feel Owen Nolan is a special player," Quinn said.

The Maple Leafs, who are entrenched in second place in the Northeast Division, will pick up the rest of his $5.5 million salary this season as well as $13 million over the next two years.

The trade could signal the dismantling of the Sharks, who likely will miss the playoffs after being tabbed by many as a challenger for the Western Conference title. Firing Coach Darryl Sutter did nothing to reverse the fortunes of San Jose, which is in last place in the Pacific Division.

"Our performance this season, among other variables, was a factor in this decision and our evaluation of our team," said Sharks General Manager Dean Lombardi. "This deal helps us address some concerns while providing us with key players and assets that will help us get back on track."

San Jose is heralding Boyes, 20, as the key acquisition. He was the 24th overall pick in the 2000 draft, and was the leading scorer for the St. John's Maple Leafs of the American Hockey League with 23 goals and 28 assists in 65 games.

McCauley, 25, is a third- or fourth-line center who has just six goals and nine assists in 64 games this season, his sixth in the NHL.

"Both McCauley, who is a proven NHL player, and Boyes, one of the top prospects in hockey, will help maintain our competitive level of play while improving our team as we move forward," Lombardi said.

With the NHL trade deadline set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time, the Sharks could be ready to unload other high-priced veterans like Teemu Selanne, Vincent Damphousse, and Adam Graves.

Suspensions for Tucker, Domi

NEW YORK, March 5 (UPI) -- The NHL on Wednesday wasted no time coming down on the Toronto Maple Leafs, suspending center Darcy Tucker five games and right wing Tie Domi three games for their actions in Tuesday's fight-filled loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Tucker charged the Senators' bench 7 1/2 minutes into the third period, firing punches at both Chris Neil and Karel Rachunek before battling Shane Hnidy on the ice. He totaled 42 minutes in penalties after receiving a minor for instigating, a double major for fighting, a misconduct and a double game misconduct.

Neil and Rachunek were fined $1,000 apiece.

While Tucker reportedly told teammates that Neil spit on him, NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said it was made clear at a hearing "that Tucker did not charge the players' bench as a result of being spit at by Neil."

"The league has previously issued a clear directive in this regard," Campbell said. "The message should be clear - any interaction by players on the ice and on the bench is not acceptable and will be subject to discipline."

With 83 seconds to play, Domi threw punches at Magnus Arvedson and was assessed a double-minor, fighting major, misconduct and game misconduct.

"Time and score of the game were among the factors considered when determining the length of the suspension," Campbell said.

Considered a repeat offender, Tucker will forfeit $80,793 and will be eligible to return on March 18 against the New York Islanders.

Domi will forfeit $31,389 and can return on March 13 at Calgary.

Milton undergoes knee surgery again

FORT MYERS, Fla., March 5 (UPI) -- After undergoing surgery last August to repair a partially tear in his left knee, Minnesota Twins lefthander Eric Milton had a second operation on the knee Wednesday.

While the timetable for Milton's return has not been determined. Dr. Thomas Rosenberg declared the arthroscopic procedure, which took place in Park City, Utah, a success, and will review the operation before determination a rehabilitation schedule.

Assistant General Manager Bill Smith said Milton is expected to return to camp on Friday.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the rehab process for Milton basically is set.

"(Dr.) Rosenberg will meet with Milton (Thursday) and review the video and show exactly what they did and also go over his rehab program," said Smith.

The 27-year-old Milton finished 13-9 last season with a 4.84 ERA in 29 starts for the American League Central Division champions. He made two postseason starts, earning a victory against Oakland in the Division Series while not figuring in the decision in Game Three of the AL Championship Series against Anaheim.

In 163 major league games, including one relief appearance, Milton owns a 56-51 record with 10 complete games, four shutouts and a 4.80 ERA.

Lefthander Johan Santana, who made 14 starts due to injuries in 2002, is expected to fill Milton's spot in the rotation.

Plummer, Gardener sign with Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., March 5 (UPI) -- The Denver Broncos made a big splash in the NFL's free agent market Wednesday, signing veteran quarterback Jake Plummer.

He visited with team officials at the team's Dove Valley complex near Denver Tuesday, and came to terms within a day.

Plummer, the starting quarterback for Arizona the last six seasons, inked a multi-year contract.

Terms were not disclosed, but he reportedly received a seven-year deal worth more than $40 million.

Team officials had been excited about his possible signing. They also wre hopeful about coming to terms with defensive tackle Darryl Gardner, who reached an agreement Wednesday afternoon.

Both players had been on Denver's wish list.

A press release issued by the team indicated that Plummer will sign his new deal Thursday.

General Manager Ted Sundquist already had made his feeling known.

"Obviously, we've done extensive evaluations on both these players," said Sundquist of both Plummer and Gardner. "We feel like they would be excellent fits for what we need on both offense and defense. We've had these guys singled out since a couple of weeks ago."

The signing of Plummer spells the end of Brian Griese's days in Denver. He had been shopping the entire offseason.

"Since John Elway retired, we really have fallen off where we move in the pocket and get away from the rush and make plays, plays that are not scheduled, not designed," Assistant Coach Alex Gibbs told a radio station in Phoenix this week. "Brian Griese was not as good in that."

Shanahan targeted Plummer after giving Griese permission to seek his own trade. Two years ago, Shanahan had given Griese a six-year, $39 million contract.

Off-the-field problems related to drunk driving incidents and poor leadership skills didn't help Griese, who was a loner in the locker room.

Plummer, 6-2, 212-pounds, has completed 1,540-of-2,754 passes for 17,622 yards, with 90 touchdowns and 114 interceptions in 84 NFL games, including 82 starts. He was the fastest Cardinal player to reach 10,000 career passing yards. He also has rushed for 1,183 yards on 247 attempts, with 10 scores, including four in 1998, the most by a Cardinal quarterback in over 20 years.

Plummer, 28, also had been heavily courted by the Chicago Bears. He has an uncanny ability to produce in last-minute situations, and led the Cardinals to 21 come-from-behind victories. In 1998, his first full season as a starter, he guided the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance since 1982, and their first post he season victory since 1947.

After suffering through frustrating 1999 and 2000 seasons that were impacted by injuries, he rebounded in 2001 and did not miss an offensive play. He started all 16 games last year, when he equaled a career-high with 18 touchdown passes.

Drafted by Arizona in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft out of Arizona State, 42nd overall, Plummer started 40 consecutive games at quarterback in four years for the Sun Devils. While at Arizona State, he set career records for completions (632), pass attempts (1,142), passing yards (8,827), and touchdown passes (65).

As a senior, he was a consensus All-America selection and unanimous Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year after leading his team to an undefeated 1996 regular season and a Rose Bowl appearance. In addition, Plummer finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting, the highest finish for a Pac-10 player since Washington defensive tackle Steve Emtman placed fourth in 1991.

Meanwhile, Gardener was considered the premier defensive tackle on the open market. He played for Washington last season.

After recovering from back surgery in 2001, Gardener started 15 games last season, recording 71 tackles, four sacks, and one fumble recovery.

In Denver, he will replace veteran Chester McGlockton, who was released last week in a salary cap move.

Gardener, a 1996 sixth-round pick by Miami out of Baylor, played his first six NFL seasons with the Dolphins. The 6-6, 295-pound native of Baltimore is a solid run stopper, has registered 393 tackles, and has 93 1/2 sacks in 97 career games.

Suns activate Hardaway

PHOENIX, March 5 (UPI) -- Phoenix Suns guard Penny Hardaway, whose absence dropped the team to the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, was activated from the injured list Wednesday.

The oft-injured Hardaway missed 24 games with torn ligaments in his right thumb. The Suns were 10-14 without him, making him the only Phoenix player whose absence has produced a losing record.

With Hardaway in the lineup, the Suns were 22-14 and firmly entrenched as a playoff team in the West, but their overall mark of 32-28 is now good enough for just eighth in the conference standings.

Although not the explosive player he was earlier in his career, the 6-7 Hardaway helped the Suns with his versatility. He averaged 10.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.17 steals before he was hurt.

Hardaway thought he suffered the injury in practice in November. He aggravated it against Cleveland on Dec. 29, and X-rays in early January revealed the tear. He had successful surgery on Jan. 11.

Hardaway received a seven-year, $86 million contract in a sign-and-trade deal with Orlando following the 1998-99 season.

This is the fifth time he has missed at least 20 games in a season, although most of his previous injury problems have been because of his knees.

In 549 career games, he has averaged 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. He made the All-Star team each year from 1995-98.

To make room on the roster, the Suns placed forward Alton Ford on the injured list with back spasms. Ford, making his third trip to the IL, has seven points and six rebounds in 11 games.

Land leaves Bearcats, Flowers suspended

CINCINNATI, March 5 (UPI) -- The University of Cincinnati announced Wednesday that forwards Eugene Land and Rod Flowers are no longer with the men's basketball team.

Land, who averaged just 5.7 minutes per game, left the team due to personal reasons. The 6-7 senior had trouble coming back from a knee injury the last two seasons.

Flowers, a 6-8 former walk-on, was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. He is averaging 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

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