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Outside looking in: Lightning seems more likely to keep No. 2 draft pick

Nothing is in stone, but the way it looks now, the Lightning seems more inclined to keep the No. 2 overall pick in the draft instead of trading it. GM Brian Lawton has said he is open to at least listening to offers, and he no doubt will be a very popular person at the June 26-27 draft in Montreal. But a quick analysis of what the Lightning wants to do short- and long-term suggests the team might be better off standing pat.

The Lightning wants Victor Hedman, touted as having the potential to be the best defenseman to come out of Sweden since Nicklas Lidstrom. But assuming for a second Hedman is not there, Tampa Bay won't lose taking forward John Tavares or perhaps even Matt Duchene, whose status has gained some upward momentum; though not getting either Tavares or Hedman would be quite a story.

So, why stay at No. 2? First consider Lawton's stated long-term goal of building the team's "foundation." Hedman, who has spent the past two years playing with men in the Swedish elite league, can be a good start. He also could develop into a cornerstone of a defense that still is very young, but, really, has some down-the-road potential with players such as Paul Ranger (24); Andrej Meszaros (23); Lukas Krajicek (26), if he signs; Matt Smaby (24), Mike Lundin (24), Matt Lashoff (22), Ty Wishart (21) and Vladimir Mihalik (22). Of course, all that youth would need an infusion of experience to help it along, but that is a bigger topic for another day.

Back to the No. 2 pick: There also is the matter of cost. Signing Hedman or Tavares, or whomever the team picks, to a rookie contract that will pay $900,000 a season, excluding bonuses, is a lot more economical than paying whatever the pick would bring back in salary commitments.

Lawton wasn't giving any hints the last time I spoke to him about what he might do with the No. 2 pick. Even if he doesn't want to trade it, you get the feeling he likes the idea of exploring what might be available from other teams. And who knows what might come out of those conversations.

Lawton only said he will do what's in the best interest of the team.

"Our goal is to be competing for a playoff spot next year," Lawton said. "Along the way, we want to build a foundation and a team ownership and the fans can be proud of." 

Like I said, everything is in flux, and likely will be until the draft. But the lay of the land right now, seems to me, indicates Tampa Bay is more inclined to keep the pick.

Here are the Lightning's draft picks: Round 1 (No. 2 overall): Round 2 (32 and 52); Round 3 (75); Round 4 (93); Round 6 (161); Round 7 (182).

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]

    

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