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Expected for months, deal took Weekes
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000
CALGARY -- So here's the deal.
You knew there would be one. You don't put two top-10 draft picks in front of Lightning general manager Rick Dudley and expect him to sit tight.
All indications were Friday night that Tampa Bay traded the No. 5 pick in today's draft at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome to the Islanders for 25-year-old goaltender Kevin Weekes and a defenseman.
There was no indication who the defenseman was, but considering Dudley's desire for big, strong, young body-crashers, it could be Eric Cairns, 26, who is 6 feet 6, 230 pounds, had 196 penalty minutes last season and broke Reid Simpson's jaw in a fight; 6-9, 255-pound Zdeno Chara, 23; 6-3, 195-pound Eric Brewer, 21, whom the Lightning almost drafted in 1997, or a prospect.
The deal allows the Lightning to address two major needs and retain in today's draft the No. 8 pick, which it acquired last year from the Rangers.
It also allows the Islanders to keep the No. 1 pick and use it on Boston University goaltender Rick DiPietro, who one day, with Roberto Luongo, may give New York one of the NHL's most dynamic, young goaltending combinations.
Dudley declined to comment specifically on the trade but did say, "We're going to address a couple of needs with one move and still get the player we covet in the draft."
The trade also sets up an interesting dynamic for the rest of the summer. It has been thought that Dudley wanted an older, more experienced goaltender to mentor Dan Cloutier. The most-mentioned name has been Ron Tugnutt, 32, who carried Pittsburgh to the Eastern Conference final and is a potential unrestricted free agent.
That possibility apparently is dead.
One that has been jolted to life is the pursuit of a scoring forward. Dudley can do that via free agency, or he can swing a trade using a bulging stable of good, young defensemen as bait.
That is more Dudley's M.O.
He broke all the rules last year when he traded the draft's No. 1 pick in a transaction that, in addition to the No. 8 pick, brought Cloutier from the Rangers.
"I enjoy it," Dudley said of the wheeling and dealing that surrounds the draft. "You get to have fun when people get into a feeding frenzy. If a deal is good for your team and it's finally coming to fruition after, sometimes, months, it's a rush. It's my rush. I don't play, I don't coach, but I can get my adrenaline up."
His adrenaline will be pulsing if he gets Weekes, who has been a favorite of Lightning coach Steve Ludzik since the 1998-99 season, when Weekes, then a Panthers prospect, played for the IHL's Detroit Vipers with Ludzik behind the bench. Weekes was 19-5-7 with league highs of four shutouts and a 2.07 goals-against average.
He was 16-27-8 with a .901 save percentage in 56 games last season with the Canucks and Islanders. He was 10-20-4 in 36 games with New York and is considered to have a huge upside.
The rest of the draft for the Lightning will be gravy. Even without the No. 5 pick, Tampa Bay has 14 picks in the nine-round event, including five in the seventh round.
And there are plenty of big bodies, any of which could fall to No. 8.
There is 6-5, 215-pound Nikita Alexeev, a right wing for the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters. There is 6-21/2, 217-pound Boston College defenseman Brooks Orpik and 6-2, 198-pound Scott Hartnell, a right wing for Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League.
As for Europeans, 6-3, 211-pound Russian left wing Alexei Smirnov and 6-3, 185-pound Russian center Mikhail Yakubov fit Dudley's parameters nicely at No. 8.
"All kinds of teams want our picks," Dudley said.
The Islanders apparently got one.
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