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Feaster set to make his move

The Lightning GM says a desire to win now could mean dealing Tampa Bay's top pick.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002


SUNRISE -- Here's the thing about draft picks: It usually takes a few years before they contribute to their NHL teams.

That is why general manager Jay Feaster said Saturday he will strongly consider trading the Lightning's first-round pick in the June 22-23 draft.

"Our goal is to get a player that will help us right now," Feaster said. "We want to win right now."

Cheers, coach John Tortorella said.

"I'm not concerned about draft picks," he said. "We need help now."

The Lightning plays its final game of the season today against the Panthers at National Car Rental Center. But Feaster is looking ahead.

Tuesday's lottery will determine which of the top five picks the Lightning gets in the draft in Toronto. The higher the pick, the greater the potential windfall from teams looking to move up.

The Lightning needs two scoring forwards to help solidify the first two lines. It also needs a top-four defenseman. Sounds a bit like last year's Islanders, who traded a package that included the No. 2 pick in the draft to the Senators for Alexei Yashin.

Yashin makes a bit more than Tampa Bay is probably willing to spend. But the concept is similar.

Feaster said he is considering the trade because he feels the Lightning, with world-class goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and a core of what should be productive players, is close to being a legitimate playoff contender.

Still, a case must be made to ownership.

"I think there is a recognition of what we need and what we need to do, and it does take money," Feaster said. "It's a matter of justifying what we're asking for."

Tortorella said the only justification is the Lightning has missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, tied with the Flames for the NHL's longest streak.

"We feel we have one of the top goalies in the game," the coach said. "We feel we have a team that has matured and progressed over this year. We feel some of the leadership has taken over and created a very strong (locker) room. What happens next?"

What happens is, Tampa Bay is careful. The draft is considered top-heavy. Jay Bouwmeester, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound defenseman from Medicine Hat, Alberta, is expected to be the top pick. Rick Nash, a 6-3, 190-pound left wing out of London, Ontario, is rated next.

Will either make an immediate impact? That is what the Lightning must assess, as well as where it selects and what it could get in trade.

"Obviously, you have some power with the pick," forward Dave Andreychuk said. "It depends what this team needs to get over the top."

It is a tricky business.

The Senators, and just about everybody else, were convinced Jason Spezza would play in the NHL this season. But the player Ottawa traded up in the draft to get spent the year in juniors.

There aren't always clear-cut victories for the team losing the draft pick, either.

Former Lightning general manager Rick Dudley traded the top pick in 1999 in a complicated deal that netted goaltender Dan Cloutier and a first-round choice in 2000 (No. 8 overall) from the Rangers.

The draft pick turned out to be highly talented forward Nikita Alexeev. But Cloutier was a bust and was dealt to the Canucks for defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who was sent to the Islanders for defenseman Mathieu Biron.

Biron has potential but hasn't given Tampa Bay what Cloutier has given Vancouver and Aucoin has given New York. All of which shows the delicate nature of what the Lightning is contemplating.

"Maybe the pick is the next Mario Lemieux. It's a tough call in that regard," defenseman Jassen Cullimore said.

"If they do make that decision (to trade the pick), they will have to do their homework. The guys they bring in will be quality players, and in that sense could help us right away."

"Now is the time, no doubt," Andreychuk said.

"I don't think you want another year like this. We want to make some moves right now."

TODAY: LIGHTNING VS. PANTHERS

WHEN/WHERE: 3; National Care Rental Center, Sunrise.

TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WDAE-AM 620.

THE LOWDOWN: The final game for both teams. Lightning RW Martin St. Louis is "very doubtful" with a slight concussion. The Lightning power play has converted five of its past 65 chances. Tampa Bay is 6-10-3 against the Southeast. Florida is 5-10-3-1. The Lightning is 10-23-6-1 on the road, its best road record since 1996-97. The Panthers are 11-23-3-3 at home. Florida RW Kristian Huselius is third in the league among rookies with 23 goals and 45 points. He entered Saturday's games tied for third with 22 assists and six power-play goals. The Lightning is 1-8-1-1 in its past 11 games. The Panthers are 3-4-3 in their past 10 and 1-4 in their past five at home. Tampa Bay's last road victory was Feb. 6 at Florida (1-5-3). The Lightning is 14-33-9-3 against the East. The Panthers are 16-32-7-4. This is the fifth meeting (2-2). Tampa Bay trails the series 11-24-7-2 and is 4-13-3-2 at Florida.


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