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Winnipeg, Detroit trade goaltenders

Winnipeg and Detroit traded goaltenders Tuesday, with Bob Essensa and defenseman Sergei Bautin going to the Red Wings for Tim Cheveldae and center Dallas Drake.

"I'm looking forward to going to a team that is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender," Essensa said.

Detroit, looking for goaltending strength heading for the playoffs, thinks Essensa is a better goalie than his 19-30-6 record behind Winnipeg's problem-plagued defense indicates.

Essensa expects to be in goal for the Red Wings this week in either Calgary or Edmonton.

In exchange for Essensa, Winnipeg got Cheveldae, 26, who has a better record than Essensa _ 16-9-1 _ but behind a better team.

It's the first major trade for Jets coach John Paddock since he took over from Mike Smith as general manager two months ago.

A trade involving Essensa and Cheveldae was rumored for weeks, but Paddock said he was looking for a player like Drake, who has 10 goals and 22 assists, to make the trade worthwhile.

Winnipeg also got rid of Bautin, the club's first choice in the 1992 entry draft, who has not lived up to expectations.

Through an interpreter, Bautin, a Russian, said he hadn't had time to adjust to the news he was being traded, although it came as no surprise.

"This isn't the last trade we're going to make," Paddock said. "A lot of players should be playing for their jobs."

Paddock said he expects to play Drake on a line between wingers Keith Tkachuk and Nelson Emerson.

Ex-Stars, Bruins player

accused of drug ring link

MINNEAPOLIS _ Tom McCarthy, a winger who spent nine seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins, Tuesday was among 24 people accused of taking part in an international drug-smuggling ring.

The indictment, returned Feb.

24 by a federal grand jury, had been sealed pending arrests of the suspects, who live in Minnesota and California.

The men are charged with conspiring to import and distribute about 7{ tons of marijuana and multiple kilograms of cocaine from 1988 to 1993.

U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug said the alleged smuggling operation stretched from Colombia to California to St. Paul and Mankato.

The indictment charges McCarthy _ who played for the the North Stars from 1979 to 1986 and for the Bruins from 1986 to 1988 _ with conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

He was arrested Friday and released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $4-million fine.

Panthers playoffs tickets

The Florida Panthers, contending for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, have mailed 1994 NHL Stanley Cup playoff ticket request forms to season-ticket holders. Public sale of tickets, in seven-game packages only, begins March 28 if seats remain.

Late Monday

Panthers 2, Canucks 1: Scott Mellanby scored a power-play goal with 38 seconds left as Florida moved within one point of Philadelphia, which holds the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The other Florida goal came from Andrei Lomakin at the 39-second mark of the first period. The Canucks tied the game early in the third period on a goal by Jyrki Lumme, but Mellanby took a pass at the corner of the net with Vancouver defenseman Robert Dirk sitting in the penalty box and slid it under goaltender Kirk McLean.