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Although the Eagles and Islanders have been publicly up-front for the past several months about their intentions to form a working partnership, and although Eagle owner Larry H. Miller often said the club would operate even if it had to do so as an independent, the length of the negotiating process had some Salt Lakers speculating about the Eagles' possible demise.

"This is important for the Eagles from a credibility standpoint," said Eagle general manager Mike Forbes about the Tuesday press conference that officially announced the signing of the three-year working agreement."There was never any doubt," he said. "It wasn't a situation where we were sitting there with sweaty palms."

"This is a second major step for the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in their silver anniversary year," added Eagle president Tim Howells. The first was naming Forbes GM in mid-May.

The Eagles will open their 25th season Oct. 8.

The Islanders' training camp begins Sept. 7 on Long Island.

Forbes said he hasn't yet signed any free agents, though the Eagles will probably have to provide about six players to complete the roster. Several IHL teams have signed some free agents recently for $80,000 and more, including former Eagle Patrick Lebeau (Atlanta). "I find that excessive," he said.

Forbes isn't worried about finding players because he gets inquiries daily from quality players. On Sunday, NHL termination contracts become effective, and Forbes expects that to drive down the asking prices. He will also watch for NHL training-camp transactions.