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Still wanted: 2 top-six vets

The Lightning continues to look for a forward, a defenseman.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 27, 2001


TAMPA -- The Lightning isn't done tweaking its roster just yet.

By the start of training camp, Tampa Bay wants to add, either through free agency or trade, a forward who can play on its top two lines and maybe another top-six defenseman.

"Are we looking to add one more top-six forward? Yes," general manager Rick Dudley said Tuesday while sitting in his office at the Ice Palace.

On defense, he said, "We're looking for a veteran."

The team already should have a different look. Tampa Bay expects first-round draft pick (No. 3 overall) Alexander Svitov, a center, to be on the roster with 2000 first-round choice Nikita Alexeev, a right wing.

Defenseman Nolan Pratt, acquired from the Avalanche on Sunday, is penciled in as a regular. And don't be surprised if Tampa Bay reacquires 39-year-old free-agent defenseman Grant Ledyard (traded to the Stars in March) to continue his work with 20-year-old Kristian Kudroc.

Dudley wouldn't comment on that last item. But Ledyard said after the trade, done to help solidify the Stars for the playoffs, he wouldn't mind returning to Tampa.

Dudley had plenty to say about the draft.

He said he never was really close to trading the No. 3 pick. Mikko Koivu was the third player the team was considering with its first-round selection. And some Lightning scouts had the 6-foot-3, 198-pound Svitov rated higher than Ilja Kovalchuk, picked No. 1 overall by the Thrashers.

Dudley seemed to agree. In his last scouting report on Svitov, Dudley wrote, "I now believe he's the best player in this year's draft."

Head scout Jake Goertzen wrote: "He is born to lead -- the Lightning, I trust."

Still, Dudley said there were scouts agitating hard for Jason Spezza, the No. 1 North American prospect. When the Senators picked Spezza second overall, the point was moot.

But Dudley said feelings around the Lightning's draft table were so deep that had Spezza been available, "I think we would have taken a timeout" to discus it. Teams could call five timeouts of five minutes each.

"If I would have stood up and said, "We're taking Spezza,' we would have been pounding the tables," Dudley said.

A possible diamond in the rough from the draft: Dimitri Bezrukov, 23, taken in the eighth round with the 259th overall pick.

"He's a guy who has a chance to be a top-two-line player right now," Dudley said. "He's big (6-3, 196), and he can really play."

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