This Saturday night, the NHL's Class of 2001 First Round Draft Picks will be celebrating their good fortunes and donning their new team colors for the first time. All the questions about who will be drafted when and by whom will be answered. The New York Islanders own the second overall pick and there sure are many questions about what will Islander Country look like by Sunday.
General consensus on the #2 pick is Canadian center, Jason Spezza. Once touted as the best player to be available, the playmaker has great vision and high expectations. Spezza will almost certainly be selected in the #2 slot, but the question is, will the Islanders be making the #2 selection?
General Manager Mike Milbury, sometimes less affectionately referred to as "Mad Mike" is known for his high-risk wheeling and dealing on draft day. Last year, he sent #1 rated hockey prospect, goalie Roberto Luongo to Florida in exchange for some scoring punch. He then sent his number two goalie to Tampa Bay for the #5 pick, used to select Raffi Torres.
So what will the Islanders course of action be this year? There is a very good chance the Islanders will try to trade the pick for an established center. Three interesting possibilities are Mike Peca of the Sabres, Alexi Yashin of the Senators, and Jason Allison of the Bruins.
Mike Peca is a tough checking center, skilled at face-offs and strong leadership skills. The Islanders could surely use help in the leadership department. But Peca is not going to add the firepower the Islanders are seeking and Buffalo seems reluctant to part with the restricted free-agent holdout.
To call Alexi Yashin a Senator is merely a technicality. On July 1, Yashin will become a free agent and the Senators cannot afford to resign him. Likely, Yashin wouldn't sign with Ottowa anyway. The former captain also has a holdout year under his belt. He packs the offensive punch the Islanders need, but many question the heart of the perrennial 40 goal scorer. The Islanders must also make sure that if they are going to trade for Yashin, they will be able to sign him.
Then there is Jason Allison, the hard-nosed center with the ability to score and the toughness and leadership to have an impact with the Islandes. Allison is gritty and strong and plays with an edge, something the Islanders did not seem to have last year. Can you imagine a line with 6'4" left wing Brad Isbister, 6'3" Allison in the middle, and a snyper like Mariusz Czerkowski on the right? That is a formidable combination of size, strength, and talent.
The question is, what will it cost to acquire the aforementioned talent? Obviously, the #2 pick is a good trade chip. However, the asking price could be Tim Connolly. A creative young center, the 1999 First Rounder is expected to make an impact in this league for many years. Other GMs around the league are also drooling over the chance to pry away power winger Isbister.
The Islanders could also turn to the deep pool of Unrestricted Free Agent Centers, but they need help attracting the attention of these big name players. Available are the likes of Joe Sakic, Jeremy Roenick and Pierre Turgeon. Since Sakic is going to stay in Colorado and Roenick probably will not want to play for the Islanders, former Islander, Pierre Turgeon may be the most likely candidate.
Finally, a dark horse possibility (as nothing is far-fetched on draft day in Islander Country), the Islanders may swap picks with Tampa Bay, slated to pick third, for goaltending help in the shape of former Islander Kevin Weekes. If that is the case, expect the Islanders to choose Russian Stanislav Tchistov or Canadian Stephen Weiss.
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Tune in for analysis of Islanders' transactions this weekend and throughout the summer!