The New Jersey Devils, a team in search of a winning identity, tapped into the rich tradition of the Montreal Canadiens on Monday when they named Hall of Famer Jacques Lemaire as their head coach.
Lemaire signed a two-year contract.
Lemaire gave up a secure front-office position in Montreal to return to NHL coaching.
"I've always loved teaching young hockey players," Lemaire said. "It's been in me since I left the game. I was very satisfied with my job in Montreal. Now I think this will be a good challenge and I'm ready to face it."
The announcement by Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello was a surprise. Lemaire, 47, wasn't one of the people rumored to replace Herb Brooks after he resigned May
31 following one season behind the bench.
Brooks was the fifth coach in the past six seasons for a franchise that has been plagued by poor attendance and playoff failure. Since arriving in New Jersey in 1982, the Devils have advanced past the opening round of the playoffs only once, in 1988.
"We looked for an individual who could immediately gain the respect of our players once he walked into that locker room," Lamoriello said. "In going through all the hockey people who may or may not be available, the name that came to mind was Jacques Lemaire."
Lemaire outlined his formula for success.
"There are two things that always stick in my mind to be a winner _ team effort and drive," Lemaire said. "That's what the fans in New Jersey will see this year."
Two Swedes declared free agents
QUEBEC _ Swedes Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund will become free agents this week because the NHL says there's no reason to fight them in court.
Naslund sued the NHL last week, saying a Wednesday deadline for Swedes to sign with an NHL team or not play in the league next season prevented him from declaring his free-agency like all other players Thursday.
The deadline was contained in a pact between the NHL and the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation that says: "All signings of Swedish players by NHL clubs must be completed on or before June
Naslund, who was under contract to MoDo of the Swedish Elite league until April
said in his suit that his rights to free-agency were being denied by the agreement.
Forsberg, whose rights belong to the Quebec Nordiques and who also was under contract to MoDo until April 30, wasn't part of the suit but contends he's similarly affected by the decision.
Scouting combine: Four NHL teams _ Hartford, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Dallas _ are pooling resources to search for players around the world. In a bid to improve scouting and cut costs, the clubs are establishing an intelligence service to serve them exclusively. "It's going to be set up as a corporation and run as its own company," Winnipeg general manager Mike Smith told the Hockey News. Smith said a chief executive officer or executive director, two to four full-time scouts and five to 12 part-time scouts will be hired as employees of a company to service the NHL clubs.