The Pittsburgh Penguins promised to return to the new-look NHL by adding big-name players, not shedding them to cut payroll. The first name on their list: Sergei Gonchar.

Gonchar, the NHL's top goal-scoring defenseman over the last six seasons, agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract yesterday. It is the Penguins' first big-ticket signing in eight years.

With No. 1 draft pick Sidney Crosby on the way, an NHL salary cap in place and the twice-bankrupt franchise now on better financial footing, General Manager Craig Patrick predicted 10 days ago that the Penguins would be active in free agency.

Gonchar has 148 goals and 277 assists in 669 career games. He was the first Russian-born defenseman to score 20 goals in a season, netting 21 with Washington in 1998-99. . . .

Alexei Kovalev and former Detroit forward-defenseman Mathieu Dandenault each signed four-year contracts with the Montreal Canadiens. . . .

Mike Modano rejected a five-year contract offer from Dallas and told the Stars he wants to keep talking with other clubs. . . .

Brian Leetch, 37, signed a one-year deal with the Bruins. Leetch was raised in Connecticut and played at Boston College. . . .

The Canucks re-signed captain and leading scorer Markus Naslund, giving him a three-year contract worth $18 million. . . .

The Islanders traded captain Michael Peca to the Oilers for center Mike York.

Earlier, New York signed high-scoring forward Miroslav Satan to a three-year deal. . . .

The St. Louis Blues traded four-time all-star defenseman and captain Chris Pronger to the Oilers late Tuesday night for defensemen Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch and Jeff Woywitka.

* WNBA: Muggsy Bogues was hired as coach of struggling Charlotte, replacing Trudi Lacey, who will remain general manager. . . .

In Phoenix, Maria Stepanova scored 12 of her season-high 18 points in the second half as the Phoenix Mercury erased a nine-point halftime deficit en route to a 70-64 victory over the Minnesota Lynx.

* SOCCER: Zinedine Zidane is coming out of international retirement to help France qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

Zidane, 33, is a brilliant playmaker for Real Madrid. He helped France win the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship titles.

Claude Makelele, 32, a midfielder with Chelsea, also announced his return.

* SWIMMING: In Irvine, Calif., Kate Ziegler and Klete Keller won the 800-meter freestyle races on the opening night of the U.S. Summer Nationals. Ziegler led wire-to-wire and won in 8 minutes 31.11 seconds.

* TRACK AND FIELD: USA Track & Field withdrew its proposal for lifetime bans for first-time steroid violations after the sport's world governing body promised to push for an increase of suspensions from two years to four years for all serious doping offenses.

-- From News Services