Wendel Clark signed a contract with the Maple Leafs yesterday, contingent on him being in shape to play for the team.

It's the winger's third stint with Toronto, and this one comes after his release by the Blackhawks last month. Clark had two goals in 13 games with Chicago this season.

Last season, Clark played with Tampa Bay (28 goals, 42 points in 65 games) and Detroit (four goals, six points in 12 games). Clark also had two goals and three assists in 10 playoff games for the Red Wings.

Since Adam Mair was sent down by the Maple Leafs last week, the club has had an open spot on its 23-man roster.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Stanley Cup no longer would be hockey's ultimate prize. The red line would become the invisible line. NHL road trips might extend from Miami to Minnesota to . . . Munich?

These proposed changes in the NHL could occur fairly early in the 21st century, according to two retired stars who have the game's long-term interest at heart. They are a couple of guys named Gretzky and Lemieux.

Wayne Gretzky suggests expansion to Europe could happen sooner rather than later and might lead to a true World Cup of hockey. Among the venues envisioned by Gretzky: London, Germany, Sweden and Finland.

Gretzky, in a column published by Canada's National Post, envisioned one league with two divisions, one North American and the other European. The two would meet each year to decide a true world champion.

Lemieux isn't certain when the European expansion will occur, but said, "It will be in our lifetime."

Gretzky also predicts that salaries will level off, the red line will be eliminated, equipment rules designed to prevent injuries will be strengthened and the NHL will continue sending players to the Olympics.