Keenan fined $100,000, suspended until Sept. 24


NEW YORK -- The nine-day tug-of-war over former New York Rangers coach Mike Keenan ended late last night with a settlement that left no party pleased or unpunished.

The multi-part decision by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman lets Keenan go to the St. Louis Blues as coach and general manager. In compensation for Keenan leaving with four years left on his contract, Bettman approved the Blues' trade of Petr Nedved to the Rangers for Esa Tikkanen and Doug Lidster.

Bettman also ordered that the Rangers pay Keenan a $608,000 bonus and that Keenan in turn repay the team $400,000 of it. He also suspended Keenan for 60 days, and fined him $100,000 for "conduct detrimental to the league." He can start his dual jobs in St. Louis on Sept. 24.

In essence, Bettman found the Blues and Detroit Red Wings guilty of tampering with Keenan while he was still under contract to the Rangers, and fined the Blues $250,000 and the Red Wings $25,000.

The fines for Keenan and the Blues are the maximum allowed under league bylaws.

Bettman also fined the Rangers $25,000 for filing a lawsuit last Monday against Keenan and his lawyer, Rob Campbell, after asking the commissioner to investigate the matter earlier in the day.

In a statement, Bettman said NHL teams and employees "may not engage in a kind of frontier justice, where every question of a contract's validity becomes an invitation to self-help. . . ."

The Rangers and Blues had agreed on a trade Friday in New York to settle the dispute, but Bettman was not entirely satisfied and called the parties to the league office for an eight-hour meeting yesterday.

Barry Watkins, a Rangers' spokesman, said the team would have no comment until today.

Said Blues president Jack Quinn: "As far as we're concerned it's behind us. We think we have the best coach in hockey and we'll go on from here to move our team closer to the Stanley Cup."

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