On Saturday, June 24, in Calgary, Canada, the New York Islanders set the hockey world on end with some controversial moves. Only days after the NHL Board of Governers unanimously approved the sale of the team to Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, the Saddledome was a buzz with rumors. Those rumors were confirmed when Mr. Kumar took the stage to make the #1 pick overall for only the third time in franchise history.
Before the Islanders made that selection, it was announced that they had acquired the #5 pick as well, by trading goalie Kevin Weekes and defensive prospect Kristian Kudroc. Then, they shocked the world by passing up on hulking power forward Dany Heatley and scoring machine Marian Gaborek, to select Rick DiPietro, the first time in NHL history that a goalie was selected #1 overall. The 18-year old goaltender, noted for his exceptional puck-handling skills, played at Boston University last season.
But the Islanders had more tricks up their sleeve. They stunned the crowd by announcing that superstar-to-be 21 year old goaltending phenom Roberto Luongo had been traded to Florida. In exchange for Luongo and center Olli Jokinen, the Islanders received a feisty sniper, Mark Parrish, and the enigmatic giant, 6'5" Oleg Kvasha. They then used the #5 pick to select the stocky tank with a big gun, Raffi Torres.
The Islanders pulled off one more trade before the first day of the draft ended. Their second round pick, along with left wing Josh Green and young defenseman Eric Brewer were traded to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for powerplay quarterback, Roman Hamerlik.
The next day, to fill the gaping hole left by the departure of Weekes and Luongo, Mike Milbury traded next year's 4th round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for John Vanbiesbrouck. The 37 year old "Beezer" will likely platoon with DiPietro, mentoring the youngster and helping to acclamate him to the NHL.
With these moves, the Islanders plugged several holes, even though Hamerlik is supposedly less than enthusiastic at the thought of playing for the Islanders. The question still remains however, would the Islanders be better off had they kept Luongo and used the #1 overall pick to select left winger Dany Heatley? There is little doubt around the league that Luongo will be a star in this league, if not a mega-star. The Islanders are putting a lot of faith in the 18-year old DiPietro. Time will be the judge and Islanders fans are left hoping Milbury made the right decisions. And the team may not be done. As July 1 marks the opening of the Free Agency season and several top notch Unrestricted Free Agent veteran defensemen will be available.
Mike Milbury and staff and the Islanders have a lot resting on next season. One way or another, the `00-`01 season promises to be an interesting one on Long Island.