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Tampa Bay Lightning inclined to keep No. 2 pick in June NHL draft, for now

The Lightning, for now, seems more inclined to keep the No. 2 overall draft pick than trade it.

GM Brian Lawton has said he is open to at least listening to offers, and things undoubtedly will get hot and heavy at the draft, June 26-27 in Montreal. Still, it appears Tampa Bay has more to gain by standing pat.

Consider Lawton's goal of building the team's "foundation." Choosing Victor Hedman, reported to be the best Swedish defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom, would be a good start. Taking C John Tavares if Hedman, the preferred choice, is not there wouldn't be bad, either.

Tampa Bay wants to contain costs. Signing either to a rookie contract that pays $900,000 a season, excluding bonuses, is more economical than adding payroll through trades.

And Hedman could develop into a cornerstone of a defense that, though young, has long-term potential.

Lawton said he will act in the team's best interest.

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

PROSPECTS COMBINE: Lawton and 104 prospects will be in Toronto this week for off-ice fitness testing and individual interviews by the teams.

Lawton said the interview process is most important.

"I have this baseline that they're all good enough to do it," he said. "What are those components they need to get them over the hump? What's going to separate them? To me, past history is a big part of it. … You look for patterns in life. It's the best indicator of future success. You look for the kids who exude confidence, who have shining examples of attributes like character that will help them be successful."

ASSISTANT SEARCH: Associate coach Mike Sullivan still is the first choice to be behind the bench with coach Rick Tocchet. But longtime NHLer Kevin Dineen could be in the mix if Sullivan decides to leave for a head coaching job or join the Rangers and former Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella as an assistant.

Others who could be considered are former Rangers coach Tom Renney, though he, too, likely wants a head coaching gig; Sharks assistant Todd Richards, believed a front-runner to be the Wild's coach; and former Wild assistant Mike Ramsey, though getting him to leave his home state of Minnesota probably is a long shot.

Other names could emerge, but for now, Dineen, 45, who is 98-45-17 the past two seasons as coach of AHL Portland, a Sabres affiliate, seems most accessible.

Dineen had 355 goals and 2,229 penalty minutes in 1,188 games, mostly with the Whalers. With the 1991-92 Flyers, he played with Tocchet, who would be part of the decision process.

SMITH UPDATE: Lawton said G Mike Smith (postconcussion syndrome) still is not skating, "but the last report on the medical side was there is no reason he won't be 100 percent, and he's 100 percent in all his normal activities in life and just starting to ramp up his training."

Tampa Bay Lightning inclined to keep No. 2 pick in June NHL draft, for now 05/24/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 7:43am]
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