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Pick and choose

The Islanders hold the No. 1 draft pick in the upcoming NHL draft will likely select London's John Tavares. (Getty Images)

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The Islanders hold the No. 1 draft pick in the upcoming NHL draft will likely select London's John Tavares. (Getty Images)

The 2009 NHL Entry Draft is a little less than three weeks away and speculation abounds over whether or not the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche will retain their first round picks.

The Isles, Lightning and Avalanche own the first, second and third overall picks, respectively, and they’re reportedly entertaining offers from clubs seeking to move up in the draft order.

It’s believed the Lightning hope to select Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman as they desperately need blueline depth, but if the Islanders take him first the Bolts would then have to choose between centers John Tavares and Matt Duchene, forcing them to look for defensive help via trades or free agency.

The Boston Herald, meanwhile, suggested the Bruins could be targeting the Avalanche for trade talks, possibly by offering up Phil Kessel for the third overall pick if the B’s are unable to re-sign the talented young sniper by draft weekend.

The Lightning, however, might not be interested in moving their pick at all. The Tampa Tribune recently reported GM Brian Lawton may have tipped his hand by inviting Hedman, Tavares and Duchene to Tampa for a round of physical testing, suggesting they’ll be happy with whichever player they get.

That’s given rise to a theory by Al Strachan of Foxsports.com who suggested, if the Islanders took Hedman first, the Lightning would select either Tavares or Duchene to form a solid, young one-two punch down the middle with 2008 first overall pick Steven Stamkos, thus allowing the Bolts to trade Vincent Lecavalier to the L.A. Kings for a package centered around defenseman Jack Johnson.

It’s possible one of these scenarios will occur; more often than not teams retain their first round picks, especially those in the top three. That’s not to suggest those picks will not be moved, but the asking price is usually far more than most GMs are willing to pay.

• The Boston Bruins’ re-signing of center David Krejci last week to a three-year contract extension worth $3.75 million per season has now shifted the focus to Kessel, another restricted free agent in Beantown.

It’s believed Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli hopes to re-sign Kessel for the same salary as Krejci, but rumors persist the two sides are far apart, with the Kessel camp reportedly seeking $5 million per season.

That’s led to suggestions Chiarelli could shop Kessel during entry draft weekend in Montreal if the two sides haven’t reached an agreement by then.

If unsigned after July 1, Kessel could receive a lucrative offer sheet from a rival club, leaving the Bruins to receive a package of draft picks if they choose not to match (compensation for a $5 million per year deal is first, second and third draft picks). Chiarelli would prefer to avoid that scenario, but he only has $6 million in available cap space for next season, which would make matching any offer almost impossible.

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Even if he were to move some players to free up cap space, Chiarelli probably won’t accept paying Kessel considerably more than Krejci.

In other news:

• The Philadelphia Flyers will likely announce the impending signing of former Ottawa Senators goaltender Ray Emery to a one-year, $1.5 million contract this week.

Should that occur, Martin Biron’s tenure as a Flyer will be over. He’s believed to be seeking a multi-year deal worth $5 million per season, which simply doesn’t fit under the club’s tight cap constraints for next season.

• Forget about the Ottawa Senators shopping center Jason Spezza before the no-trade clause in his contract kicks in next summer.

GM Bryan Murray said he has no intention of moving Spezza, calling him a “top-end forward” and praising his performance for Team Canada in last month’s World Championship.

• Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland was quick to deny an SI.com report that claimed the club will likely sign right winger Marian Hossa to a seven-year contract extension following the playoffs.

Holland said he’s had no contract talks with Hossa or his agent since the end of the regular season, following his policy of not negotiating with his players during the post-season.

If the Wings do re-sign Hossa, it would have to be a lengthy, front-loaded contract similar to those signed by teammates Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen in order to fit comfortably with the club’s cap space.

• New Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said he intends on rebuilding the club primarily through the draft and will take a cautious approach in pursuing expensive free agent talent.

Even if Nieuwendyk was keen on chasing free agent stars, he would be hampered by team owner Tom Hicks, who has no desire to spend up to the salary cap next season.

The Stars currently have less than $40 million committed toward next season’s payroll.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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