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Fans gather to (mostly) cheer

At the Ice Palace, there was only a little dissent about dealing a top pick.

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002


TAMPA -- Lightning fans craved immediate help in pursuit of the playoffs. Management obliged by trading the fourth pick in Saturday's NHL draft for two veterans.

"We've got so many prospects now," said Lightning broadcaster Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, adding that he favored the team acquiring "guys who have been in the league."

For the most part, fans at a draft party Saturday at Shots and skating at the Ice Palace approved of trades for Philadelphia left wing Ruslan Fedotenko and Dallas defenseman Brad Lukowich.

Tampa Bay's choice at No. 4 went to the Flyers for Fedotenko, 23, and two second-round picks. The Lightning gave Dallas one of its picks for Lukowich, 25.

Those moves came less than a week after the Lightning signed its top choice from last year, Russian power forward Alexander Svitov.

"I like the fact that we got two experienced NHL players, not rookies," said 27-year-old Mike Araujo, of Tampa.

Brandon's Greg Cornella, 32, Araujo's friend, said, "We want a team now, not what they've been doing the past five or six years."

Fedotenko, who has 33 goals in two NHL seasons, could wind up on a line with center Vinny Lecavalier and right wing Shane Willis.

Lukowich is a stay-at-home defenseman projected to step into the top four on the blue line.

"We knew they were going to need some impact players," said Ken Harris, 45, of Clearwater. "We've got a fairly decent defense. We're just not putting in enough goals to help our defense."

At least one fan, however, disputed trading away such a high draft choice.

"I think Tampa Bay was stupid to get rid of their pick," said Tampa's Jim Pezzullo, 20. "Why don't you just keep getting young players to build a team?"

Season ticket holder Renee Rice, who watched her 7-year-old son, Max, skate at the Ice Palace, said adding two young players could be just what the Lightning needs to make the playoffs for the second time in the team's 10-year history.

"I think we've got the talent," said Rice, of Ruskin. "The potential is there."

Though Lightning GM Jay Feaster said the team is not in the market to pay millions to high-priced free agents, Araujo mentioned Chicago sniper Tony Amonte, whose asking price is $9-million per season.

"You bring him here, you'll put 5,000 extra fans (per game) in the seats," Araujo said.

Amid fans at Shots, along with parents and children skating or playing interactive games around the Ice Palace rink, was 10-year-old Michael Longnecker, who took slap shots at a picture of Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

Longnecker, of Seminole, did not know who the Lightning got for trading away its top pick, but said, "I guess it's okay."

Then he wound up, held his stick high above his head, and drilled Khabibulin's likeness once again.


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