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Ice Hockey: Looking out for No. 1

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posted on Jun, 20 2003 @ 11:09 AM
NASHVILLE -- Florida Panthers GM Rick Dudley has tossed a line in the water with a prime piece of bait: The No. 1 pick in this weekend's NHL entry draft.

Sources told the Sun yesterday Dudley will likely trade the Panthers' top selection once he's able to find the right dance partner.

It's going to take two players who can immediately help the Panthers along with a No. 1 draft pick for the first choice overall.

The bait looks all the more attractive to the fish -- namely Carolina, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston -- because the catch is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who is coming off a standout season with Cape Breton. If he doesn't go No. 1, he won't fall any further than No. 2.

"The talk has heated up in the last couple of days," said Dudley. "I've gotten a couple of what I would call interesting offers for the pick. There's one situation that could conceivably make a lot of sense to me. It involves picks and it involves players."

The most serious bidder is the Flyers. GM Bobby Clarke recently dealt inconsistent netminder Roman Cechmanek to Los Angeles.

Indications are the Panthers want either winger Justin Williams or Simon Gagne along with another player and the Flyers' No. 11 selection. That's a high price to pay.

Boston GM Mike O'Connell has denied he will trade winger Sergei Samsonov for the top selection, but it might not stop him from dealing defenceman Nick Boynton and winger Brian Rolston.

The talk doesn't stop there. Indications are the Colorado Avalanche are prepared to offer either winger Alex Tanguay, defenceman Martin Skoula or centre Vaclav Nedorost as part of package for No. 1.

"There's no question that you can make your team significantly better immediately by trading the No. 1 pick, but I also have to look at it long term," said Dudley.

"If we don't think a trade would be good for both the short term and long term of the franchise, then we won't trade the pick because I can promise you one thing -- the first pick in this draft will be a significant player."

Vancouver is also among a group of teams willing to deal their No. 1 pick. Columbus is listening to offers for the No. 4 selection and Carolina will react based on what move Florida makes.

If the Panthers keep the selection, they'll likely select centre Eric Staal from Peterborough. Florida has plenty of goaltending and could use a slick, skilled centre like Staal.

"I'm almost certain you're going to see Dudley trade that pick," said an NHL executive. "He wants to do something because the Panthers don't need the No. 1 pick. He's just waiting to get the best deal he can."

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