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Ducks Sign First-Round Pick Tverdovsky

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Mighty Ducks, still mired in a contract stalemate with 1993 first-round draft choice Paul Kariya, signed this year’s first-round pick, Oleg Tverdovsky, on Monday--and quickly admitted they’re trying to send Kariya a message.

Tverdovsky, an offensively skilled defenseman who was the second pick in June’s draft, became the first of this year’s top picks to sign, agreeing to a three-year deal worth $4.2 million, including $2.5 million in signing bonuses.

“Hopefully now (Kariya) sees we’re extremely serious about getting guys into our lineup.” General Manager Jack Ferreira said by telephone from Boston, where he is attending NHL meetings.

Kariya, 19, who starred for Canada in the Olympics and World Championships after being drafted fourth overall last year, reportedly is seeking at least $2 million a year--more than a million a year more than the Ducks initially offered and considerably more than the $1.4 million average--including signing bonuses--that Tverdovsky will earn.

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Even Ferreira does not expect to sign Kariya for less than he did Tverdovsky. In fact, asked if he would be willing to sign Kariya to the same deal, Ferreira replied quickly, “Done.”

In Tverdovsky’s case, both sides had considerable motivation. The Ducks beat a Monday deadline related to Tverdovsky’s release from his Moscow team--perhaps saving several hundred thousand dollars by not having to negotiate a buyout of the two years remaining on his contract. And Tverdovsky, 18, is ensured a quick departure from Russia, where many players fear for their safety because of recent extortion attempts.

With the opening of training camp Sept. 4 fast approaching, Don Baizley, Kariya’s agent, has put negotiations on hold while he seeks a clarification from the NHL about Kariya’s free-agent status if he isn’t signed this year.


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