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Phoenix Signs Goalie Bob Essensa

September 6, 1999

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ In the wake of Nikolai Khabibulin’s holdout, the Phoenix Coyotes signed goaltender Bob Essensa on Sunday.

Essensa, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year deal. Contract terms were not disclosed.

Khabibulin, a restricted free agent who earned $1.25 million in 1998, won 32 games last season to tie for fourth-best in the NHL. He reportedly is seeking a multiyear deal for up to $4 million per season.

But the Coyotes, who claim they lost $10 million last season because of ongoing problems with their lease at America West Arena, seem reluctant to pay that kind of money.

General manager Bobby Smith has not revealed the club’s offer to Khabibulin, who played in 205 of the Coyotes’ 246 games since the team relocated from Winnipeg in 1996.

``We have 27 days, eight preseason games and 12 quality practice days,″ said new Coyotes head coach Bob Francis. ``Whoever is in net, the focus is getting that person ready.″

Before the Coyotes signed Essensa, Mikhail Shtalenkov was the only goalie they had in camp with NHL experience.

Essensa, 33, was originally drafted by Winnipeg in 1983 and played six seasons with the Jets, winning 116 games and notching 14 shutouts.

He was traded to Detroit in 1994 but played only 13 games before being dealt to Edmonton in 1996. Essensa compiled a 22-28-7 record over three seasons with the Oilers, including a 12-14-6 mark last season.

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