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Lightning passes on top pick, for now


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 15, 2001

The window of opportunity for the Lightning to sign its top selection of the June draft will close without a contract agreement. That means highly regarded forward Alexander Svitov, the draft's third overall selection, will spend next season playing in Russia.

Assistant general manager Jay Feaster said Tuesday the Lightning will not sign the 18-year-old Elite League player by midnight, the deadline for NHL teams to sign their European draft choices for next season.

Feaster said Tampa Bay and Svitov's agent Jay Grossman could not agree on compensation. Svitov, who lives in the Siberian city of Omsk, was seeking the rookie salary cap of $1.2-million a season plus bonuses.

Though general manager Rick Dudley said on draft day he thought the 6-foot-3, 198-pound Svitov could crack the Lightning roster, Feaster said giving the No. 2 European prospect, who has drawn comparisons to New Jersey's Bobby Holik, another year to mature isn't bad.

"The one thing we have done is we've added much more depth," Feaster said. "We're a much deeper organization than we were, so you don't need to rush young players."

Unlike the two-year deadline teams have to sign North American picks before they can re-enter the draft, European selections are tied indefinitely to their NHL teams. That means the Lightning will retain Svitov's rights as well as the rights of its other unsigned European prospects.

"We think he'll play for us a long time and be a significant player," Feaster said.

CONTRACT MATTERS: Minor-league forward Kaspars Astashenko and defenseman Marek Posmyk have not accepted the Lightning's qualifying offers and are not expected in camp, which begins Sept. 11.

Around the league

AVALANCHE: The team will retire the No. 77 worn by Ray Bourque, the highest scoring defenseman in history.

THRASHERS: Atlanta signed left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, the first overall pick in the draft.

-- Includes information from Times wires.

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