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The rankings, projections and mock drafting is now complete and Friday night the N.H.L.

teams begin selecting the players they hope will be important parts of their future at the entry draft in Montreal.Here's Jeff Z.

Klein's article in Friday's Times.Barring an unexpected trade, Islanders General Manager Garth Snow will select first, ending his silence and the mystery surrounding who his organization believes is the best player available in a draft considered by scouts to be very deep in potential.

If he selects John Tavares, the goal-scoring center who topped the N.H.L.'s Central Scouting rankings, the thousands of Islanders fans watching on the big screen at Nassau Coliseum will probably roar with approval.Selecting Tavares will leave two other players who could legitimately be chosen first for the Lightning and the Avalanche, who have the second and third picks (here is the order of selection for the entire draft).Victor Hedman, a tall, skilled defenseman in the Nicklas Lidstrom mold, is considered by scouts to be the most N.H.L.-ready prospect.

Matt Duchene, another center, is perhaps the most complete player of the three, a better skater and all-around talent than Tavares, more of an offensive upside and perhaps more physical than Hedman.

In fact, in Friday's Toronto Star, Damien Cox reports on "the low-level chatter last night that the Isles might be considering shocking the hockey world and taking Matt Duchene." He added that "there are many who believe that the Isles aren't keen on Tavares's skating and were leaning toward Hedman." Picking Hedman or Duchene might not be greeted as warmly at the Coliseum as picking Tavares, whom most informal polls suggest is favored by Islanders fans.

David Cassillo in Newsday reports that Islanders fans, who lived for years with Mike Milbury's unpredictability on draft day, are accustomed to fearing the worst will happen with a valuable pick.

As Greg Logan writes in Newsday, "Tonight's Islanders draft party at the Coliseum, for which the team has received more than 22,000 requests for free tickets, might resemble the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square if it's Tavares — or the morning after if it's not."Jeff Z.

Klein will be on Long Island to report on the scene for The Times.

And Slap Shot's experts on junior hockey, Mark Pargas and Jeff Hale, will be tweeting.If you can't be there or in Montreal, live coverage of the draft's first round will be on TSN and RDS in Canada, Versus in the United States.

The remaining coverage will be on the NHL Network in both countries and in Quebec on RIS.

MSG Network will wrap up the draft with a local perspective at 9 p.m.

Saturday.Regardless of who selects whom, no player chosen Friday or Saturday will single-handedly change a franchise's fortunes next season.In fact, as Tom Lynn, a former assistant general manager for the Wild points out in a blog post on The Hockey News Web site, the most proven method for quickly improving a team at the entry draft is through a trade.

"Landing that key piece that addresses a team’s immediate need at the draft can make the biggest difference in that team’s season for the least 'cost,' more so than the July free-agency signing period or the late-season trade deadline."Lynn writes that "unrestricted free agents have a solid history of declining performance" and that they "are prohibitively expensive in a salary-cap world." He adds that recent trade-deadline acquisitions, with a few exceptions, "have been much sweeter for the seller than the buyer." He then goes through the assistant G.M.'s role in making a draft-day trade happen and it's a very revealing look at the inner workings of an N.H.L.

hockey operations staff and how a deal gets done on the dance floor draft floor.

In fact, there is some thinking that trades may overshadow the draft selections this weekend.

Some rather big names could be in play: Vincent Lecavalier, Dany Heatley, Chris Pronger, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryane Clowe (a restricted free agent), Joffrey Lupul, Ryan Smyth, Scott Hannan, John-Michael Liles, Tomas Kaberle (who TSN reported was being sought by Boston in exchange for pending R.F.A.

Phil Kessel) and the rights to pending U.F.A.'s Jay Bouwmeester and Marian Gaborik.

The Bouwmeester and Gaborik deals would be the most tricky since there's no guarantee that the team trading for them will actually get them in uniform.

Darren Dreger on TSN.ca reported that it would cost a club a third-round pick just to speak with Bouwmeester, who will become a free agent July 1.

If that club then signs the big defenseman, it would probably have to give the Panthers an additional high draft pick next season.

The risk hasn't scared off teams.

Dreger reported that five teams were interested in Bouwmeester and Friday morning, while Steve Gorten of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel heard from the Panthers' assistant G.M., Randy Sexton, that four teams were in the hunt.A team would probably have to do some homework and believe it had a good chance of signing a pending free agent before making a deal for him.

Skating Around: Adrian Dater in the The Denver Post, in a good discussion of what the rebuilding Colorado team might do, reports that Duchene grew up an Avalanche fan.

The number of draft-eligible Russian players has declined markedly in recent years.

Only nine were selected last June and seven the year before.

That contrasts with a high of 44 in 2000 and numbers consistently in the 30s a few years after that.

The uncertainty of these players actually coming to play in the N.H.L.

has cooled the interest in that talent pool and, as David Boclair writes in Nashville's City Paper, that lack of a transfer agreement is largely to blame.

Alexander Radulov's contract jump to the K.H.L.

last summer certainly didn't help matters.

Sportsnet.ca says that it looks as if Mike Cammalleri will not sign a new contract with the Flames and will explore free agency.Martin Havlat, who led the Blackhawks in scoring this season and is a pending U.F.A., continues to speak with G.M.

Dale Tallon about a new contract; the hang-up, Tim Sassone writes in The Daily Herald, is the length of the deal.

"Havlat likely would receive a multiyear deal should he reach unrestricted free agency on July 1," he writes.

"Signing Havlat for just one year would assure the Hawks of having more money to spend next summer when Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane are up for new contracts." Matthew Sekeres writes in The Globe and Mail that Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo is close to agreeing with the team on a contract extension that would kick in after next season.

Nothing is certain in this world, and maybe not the next one either, but the Penguins and the pending U.F.A.

Ruslan Fedotenko seem to be agreeable that they'd like to stay together.

Negotiations continue, reports Dave Molinari in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, after a good first discussion.The Predators and the pending U.F.A.

Steve Sullivan continue to negotiate and John Glennon in The Tennessean reports "differences remain between the team and Sullivan in both length and amount of contract." The Red Wings continue to negotiate with Marian Hossa's agent, but the sides are, according to MLive.com's Ansar Khan, "far apart.""Hossa's agent, Ritch Winter, is seeking a deal worth $6 million per season," Khan writes.

"The Red Wings, because of their limited salary-cap space, can't afford to give him much more than $4 million per season."George James Malik on MLive's Snapshots reports that the Red Wings have informed the city of Detroit that it will not renew the lease on the Joe Louis Arena that was drafted 30 years ago.

But they want to talk about a new lease that the president and chief executive of Ilitch Holdings Inc., Christopher Ilitch, says will take into account: "one, the evolution of the sports and entertainment industry; two, the current economic environment in which both the City and Olympia Entertainment are operating and; three, the infrastructure replacement and repair needs of a 30-year-old building in order to meet the competitive industry standards of today."And finally, the Canadiens, who — under the pending new ownership of the Molson brothers — may want to make some sort of splash this weekend by acquiring a big center or drafting a player that will be popular with the fans, said Thursday that they planned to extend offers to some of their 10 pending U.F.A.'s, including Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Mathieu Schneider, Alex Kovalev and Mike Komisarek.

G.M.

Bob Gainey has been criticized in some quarters for not locking up some of these players, especially Komisarek, but it's quite possible that the financial difficulties that forced George Gillett to sell the club kept things at a standstill.

Now, with new money on the way, that may not be an issue.

Gainey told reporters Thursday that he had already made an offer to Komisarek.



http://slapshot.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/the-morning-skate-the-isles-pick-trade-buzz-and-habs-want-komisarek-back/
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