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Bierk, Gardiner taken by Minnesota, Columbus

The Lightning loses a goaltender and a forward as the Wild, Blue Jackets fill their rosters.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


CALGARY -- If Doug MacLean sees another mock draft, it will be way too soon.

The general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets said he did a mock draft on just about every plane flight he has taken since getting his job with one of the NHL's two expansion teams.

"I'm sick of mock drafts," he said.

MacLean and Minnesota Wild general manager Doug Risebrough can go back to crossword puzzles. Friday's expansion draft at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome stocked both teams with 26 players and cost the Lightning two.

Goaltender Zac Bierk was claimed by the Wild. Forward Bruce Gardiner was taken by the Blue Jackets.

"We knew we were going to lose a couple of good players," Lightning general manager Rick Dudley said. "Zac, if you had your choice, you didn't want to lose him. Bruce is a good player. That was kind of expected."

Forward Robert Petrovicky, who was left unprotected, was not taken, but his days with the Lightning are still numbered. Assistant general manager Jay Feaster said Petrovicky likely will not be offered a contract before June 30, which would make him an unrestricted free agent and able to negotiate with any team.

"We don't want to hold him back," Feaster said.

Petrovicky, Bierk and Gardiner were unavailable for comment.

Bierk was an interesting pick. With an .899 save percentage last season, the 6-foot-4 23-year-old was the only Lightning goaltender to get near .900.

He was 4-4-1 in 12 games with a 3.65 goals-against average but was hampered by an inner-ear problem that occasionally affected his balance.

Risebrough said the Wild investigated the malady and decided Bierk was worth the risk.

"He's a good, up-and-coming goaltender. He's a big guy," Risebrough said. "We felt (the ear problem) had gotten better, so we just thought it was worth it for the upside."

Gardiner, 28, struggled after being acquired in November from the Senators for Colin Forbes.

In 41 games with Tampa Bay, Gardiner had three goals, six assists and a minus-21 rating. He also missed 13 games with a knee injury.

That output, coupled with next season's $700,000 salary, made Gardiner an expensive investment.

But MacLean said Gardiner is the kind of player who can provide a spark.

"He's a good skater, he has speed and good character," MacLean said. "He's had a good run the last couple of years, and he plays hard every night. I know those are the words you hear with every player, but those words describe him."

Frantic would be the word to describe the first few hours after the draft. The Wild traded goaltender Mike Vernon to the Flames, forward Joe Juneau to the Coyotes and goaltender Chris Terreri to the Blackhawks.

For the rest, Risebrough had encouraging words.

"We wanted to get solid leadership," he said, "and guys resilient enough to be in an expansion situation."

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