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Feaster continues to shop

Two trades, one pick make Lightning "a better hockey team right now,'' general manager says.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002

TORONTO -- There was no way anyone was going to knock the smile off Jay Feaster's face.

He even was upbeat while discussing the media criticism of Friday night's trade in which he sent the No. 4 overall pick to the Flyers for left wing Ruslan Fedotenko.

"You are not going to rain on our parade," the Lightning general manager said Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. "We've had a very good draft so far in our opinion."

It was a day of trades and permutations for Feaster.

He took the 34th pick, which he got in the Fedotenko trade, and sent it to the Stars for defenseman Brad Lukowich and a seventh-round pick in 2003. He took the 52nd pick, also from the Fedotenko trade, and dealt it to the Sharks for the 60th and 162nd picks.

No. 60 turned into Adam Henrich, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound power forward who had 33 goals last season for OHL Brampton.

The way Feaster sees it, he got two players who made the Lightning "a better hockey team right now."

He projects Fedotenko as a 20- to 25-goal scorer with a solid defensive sensibility. He said Lukowich, a 6-1, 200-pound bruiser, is a top-four defenseman whose stay-at-home style will ensure a clear area in front of the net.

Both, he said, were underutilized by their former teams; Fedotenko as a third-line wing, Lukowich as a No. 5 defenseman.

"Those are the kinds of players the Tampa Bay Lightning has to get. We need to make sure we're finding those guys," Feaster said. "Why is it Freddie Modin wasn't a 30-goal scorer for the Maple Leafs and he's a 30-goal scorer for us? Figure it out."

But some prominent analysts said Feaster shortchanged himself by not waiting until Saturday to trade the No. 4 pick to force up the price.

Pierre Maguire and Bob McKenzie of TSN, the equivalent of ESPN in Canada, were the harshest critics.

"A lot of the people around hockey are wondering what the rush was," said Maguire, former coach of the Hartford Whalers. "They could have squeezed more out of another team. It's asset management. Maybe they thought they would create the market for themselves, but sometimes it is better to wait."

"They made the deal 14 hours before the deadline," McKenzie said. "I can't imagine the value of the fourth pick doesn't increase with each passing hour."

Feaster said he doesn't mind the debate because it fuels interest. But he does not buy the argument because "we did our homework."

"Until those guys come down and live in our shoes and our market and understand the situation we're in in terms of needing to win today, those guys are entitled to their opinion," Feaster said.

"I'm not going to apologize to those guys. Once you are in a situation where you have talked to all those teams and you have been there and lived it, then you can say you could get something more. It's great to say there's something more, but we tested the market."

The Islanders offered Mariusz Czerkawski, who had 22 goals and 51 points last season. Tampa Bay passed on the inconsistent right wing, and he was traded to the Canadiens.

Feaster declined to comment on specific players but said of his search, generally, "There were a lot of different opportunities to consider. There were sexier names on the board but all these guys in our opinion had flaws. They were guys who couldn't check their hats, guys coming off injuries or surgery, guys who had down years.

"With (Fedotenko) we didn't see any flaws. He's a guy (coach) John Tortorella is going to fall in love with because he is so responsible defensively and comes to compete every night."

A flaw could have developed if Finnish goaltender Kari Lehtonen had been available with the fourth pick.

"Then I would have looked like the biggest knucklehead in the world," Feaster said. Tampa Bay believes Lehtonen is a franchise player and would have installed him as Nikolai Khabibulin's backup. But, as expected, Lehtonen went second to the Thrashers.

London left wing Rick Nash went first to the Blue Jackets and Medicine Hat defenseman Jay Bouwmeester went third to the Panthers after the teams swapped positions.

So, did Fester swap too fast? And will he swap again given Tampa Bay's six picks today in rounds four through nine?

"My job is to make the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club a playoff team and do it now," he said. "We'll see what the result is at the end of the season."

"It will all come out in the wash," McKenzie said. "How much better will the Lightning be with Fedotenko and Lukowich? Will that get them to the playoffs and sell them X number of tickets? If the answer is yes, we all owe Jay Feaster and the Lightning an apology."

In his best-case scenario, Feaster will be waiting ... with a smile on his face.

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