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Al Iafrate Hopes To Revive Career

July 14, 1998 GMT

MORRISVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Al Iafrate hopes to revive his once thriving career with the Carolina Hurricanes, who signed the free agent Tuesday to an incentive-laden contract that could pay the former All-Star $3 million this season.

The signing of the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Iafrate came one day after the Hurricanes, a franchise that has missed the postseason each of the last six seasons, landed high-profile free agent center Ron Francis with a $20.8 million deal.

Once among the NHL’s best offensive defensemen with a 105 mph slap shot, Iafrate played in only 59 games the past four seasons with Boston and San Jose because of operations on both knees and a back operation.

Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford decided to sign the four-time All-Star to a one-year contract after he received a relatively clean bill of health from a Detroit doctor.

``I don’t see why not,″ Rutherford said when asked if Iafrate could return to All-Star form at age 32. ``They didn’t operate on his ability. They have operated on his knees and his back. He can play every bit as good as he did at one time as long as he’s healthy.″

That’s the catch, and the reason Iafrate’s base salary will be $300,000 with incentives for games played and level of production. Iafrate would likely have to put up numbers like his 25-goal, 41-assist season with Washington in 1992-93 to earn $3 million.

``If I produce the way I did five years ago I will be right on scale with all the other guys who are all-stars now,″ Iafrate said of his contract. ``I think it’s fair for both sides.″

Iafrate also said he signed with the Hurricanes because of a comfort level with the front office and coaching staff. He once played youth hockey in Detroit for a team sponsored by Peter Karmanos, who owns the Hurricanes.

``It was important for it to be understood that I’m not a fresh 18-year-old young guy anymore,″ he added. ``I’ve had a lot of wear and tear. The issue is knowing about my injuries and then that’s the end of the issue. It’s like, `OK, play as many games as you can.‴