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Steve Guenette says he respects the Pittsburgh Penguins for trading to get a goaltender of Tom Barrasso's ability because the Penguins are trying to build the best team they can, and he appreciates their honesty for telling him that, after that trade, he was "no longer in their plans and they'd try to trade me as soon as possible."

Sure, it was a blow to his ego, but, "You have to be mature enough to handle it," says the newest Golden Eagle, who's 23 years old. "It's part of being a hockey player."They could have just buried me; I'm thankful they've given me a chance somewhere else," Guenette says.

In fact, Pittsburgh tried so hard to trade Guenette - who will probably start for the Eagles tonight as they open a most important two-game set in the Salt Palace with the first-place Milwaukee Admirals - that he was even traded twice by Pittsburgh on the same weekend.

He started the season in Pittsburgh, where he played 11 games before being sent on Nov. 18 to Muskegon, where he played another 10. The Lumberjacks were in Peoria, and Guenette was to start a Saturday game, but then he was told he wouldn't play - "something was up."

On that Saturday, Jan. 7, he was traded to Chicago for a sixth-round draft choice, but then the Penguins decided they wanted a fifth-round choice instead, the deal stalled and Chicago's Bob Pulford never called the Penguins back. The next day, Guenette was traded to Calgary, the Eagles' parent team, for a sixth-round draft choice.

He'd probably have been better off, at least immediately, if Chicago had grabbed him because, with the Blackhawks' problems, he'd have been back in the NHL right away. With Calgary, "It's not like they need a goalie for today; it's more for down the line."

But, says Guenette, "Over the long term, I'm more than happy to be with Calgary. It's a super organization."

"We've liked him for two years," says Eagle Coach Paul Baxter, saying the Flames approached Pittsburgh and were surprised to find Guenette available. "We felt very fortunate to get a quality goaltender of his stature."

After all, last season as a second-year pro, Guenette was named the IHL's top goaltender with a league-leading 2.81 goals-against average and 23-4-5 record including four shutouts. As a rookie, Guenette played 54 games with Baltimore in the American League, compiling a 3.10 GAA.

In two weeks with the Eagles, he's already been named IHL Player of the Week for two road wins against Milwaukee and Kalamazoo last weekend. He allowed four goals in two games.

The Flames are so interested in seeing what Guenette has to offer that they loaned out the IHL's most active and winningest goalie, Doug Dadswell (32 games, 15-10-3 record), to Indianapolis just to keep both youngsters playing enough. Baxter says that situation will be re-evaluated in a week or 10 days.

Of Guenette, Baxter observes, "He's a good reaction goaltender who also plays the angles well."

Now that the Eagles have an 11-game homestand, Guenette and his bride of six months are looking forward to moving out of hotel rooms - they've been in hotels for two months - and into a more permanent residence where they can eat and rest properly. Their furniture's still in Pittsburgh. Their future's in Calgary.