THE ISLANDERS willhear numerous offers for the No. 1 pick in this weekend's entry draft, butbarring an over-the-top package, they should resist the temptation to make atrade and instead select OHL scoring sensation John Tavares. Not only is theOntario-born Tavares skilled enough to jump-start the Islanders' offense almostimmediately (he had 433 points in 247 OHL games over the past four seasons),but the winger also brings star power. The Islanders—like the Flyers in 1992when they acquired holdout No. 1 pick Eric Lindros from the Nordiques, and thePenguins when they drafted Sidney Crosby in 2005—need both a ray of hope and adrawing card. New York, which hasn't won a playoff series in 16 years and hasbeen last in NHL attendance each of the past two seasons, is seeking publicfinancing for a new arena to replace the 37-year-old Nassau Coliseum. Tavarescould help that quest, just as the presence of Lindros and Crosby helped leadto new buildings in those players' respective cities.
With an activetrade market expected at the draft in Montreal, here are three other teams towatch.
They hold the No. 2 pick—likely 6'6" 220-pound Swedish defenseman VictorHedman, or OHL center Matt Duchene—but even more enticing is a potential tradeof Vincent Lecavalier, the superb $8 million-a-year center whose move couldprovide the foundation for the team to rebuild. The Kings and the Canadiens areboth deeply interested in acquiring the 29-year-old Lecavalier, who could bringback a top six forward, a top four defenseman, a prospect and a draft pick. Insuch a deal the acquiring team would look to unload a fair amount of salary tooffset Lecavalier's contract, which runs through 2019--20.
Captain Patrick Marleau is coming off a career-high 38 goals, but he has been aperennial playoff disappointment and the Sharks haven't advanced past thesecond round since 2004. Marleau could headline a large trade package and maybe better suited to an environment in which he is simply expected to score andnot lead. Star center Joe Thornton, who also has struggled to produce in thepostseason and who may not be invited to Team Canada's Olympic camp thissummer, will stay in San Jose.
Phil Kessel, the revived phenom who at 21 delivered 36 goals this season,becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, and despite the chemistry that hedeveloped with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic on Boston's phenomenal top line lastyear, he could well be dealt. The emergence of 23-year-old center David Krejci,recently signed through 2011--12, would compensate for the loss of Kessel, whocould bring back multiple players, including a needed defenseman.
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OLIVER DAY/SOUTHCREEK SPORTS/ICON SMI (TAVARES)
KEEPER ... GONER? Teams coveting Tavares will try to pry the No. 1 pick from the Isles; Lecavalier (below) could yield a bounty for Tampa Bay.
JAMES GUILLORY/US PRESSWIRE (LECAVALIER)
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