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Lightning picks center Creighton

As a player, Tampa Bay Lightning president Phil Esposito was big enough and strong enough to camp in front of the net and score seemingly at will.

So, Esposito appreciates an imposing center. But the Lightning was short on size at that position.

Until Sunday that is, when the expansion team acquired 6-foot-5, 210-pound Adam Creighton from the New York Islanders with the first pick in the waiver draft. The Lightning must compensate New York with cash, but the club wouldn't say how much.

"In a way I was (surprised to be left unprotected), but it just came down to they weren't going to use me, and with my contract, they're better off," Creighton said Sunday night. "But something had to happen for me, and I'm glad it's here. It's just hard to believe _ hockey in Tampa. I know the area pretty well, and my family's here."

Dave Creighton, a 12-year NHL veteran who owns the Northdale Golf Club, and his wife, Iris, live in Tampa. Their other son, David Jr., is the head professional at Northdale, and their daughter, Carolyn, attends St. Petersburg Junior College.

"It's just great to have all the family together," said Dave Creighton, who said Adam and his family (wife Linda and son Jack) usually come to Tampa for a month after the season. "We're all excited."

So is Esposito.

"Any time you can get a 6-foot-5 centerman, you take him," said Esposito, who said he had many calls from other general managers Sunday asking if he planned to take Creighton and, if so, was he interested in trading him.

No way.

The Lightning picked four centers _ Michel Mongeau, Anatoli Semenov, Rob DiMaio and Brian Bradley _ in the June entry draft. But only Semenov (6-2, 200) is taller than 5-10 and weighs more than 190 pounds. The team later traded for Ken Hodge (6-1, 200).

"I don't like the whole team to be small at center, and now we're not," said Esposito, who made defenseman Peter Taglianetti available to be picked but didn't expect anyone to take him. No one did; only seven other players were picked in the draft.

Creighton, 27, was a first-round pick _ the 11th overall _ of Buffalo in 1983 and spent five years with the Sabres before being traded to Chicago in 1988. He and Steve Thomas were sent to the Islanders for Brent Sutter and Brad Lauer last October.

He has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past four seasons and recorded career highs in goals (34) and assists (36) with the Blackhawks in the 1989-90 season. In 445 NHL games, he has 132 goals and 154 assists.

Coach Terry Crisp said he doesn't know which forwards will flank Creighton and that he'll continue to "mix and match" until he hits upon the best combinations.

Recapping the draft: The rest of the transactions in the waiver draft were: Ottawa, with the second pick in the first round, took Edmonton defenseman Norm Maciver; last year's expansion team, San Jose, chose Washington left wing Yvon Corriveau; Calgary, with the sixth pick, took Minnesota defenseman Chris Dahlquist; Philadelphia, picking next, chose Quebec defenseman Shawn Cronin; San Jose, with the third pick in the second round, selected Vancouver center Igor Larionov; Philadelphia took Boston left wing Doug Evans; and Chicago picked St. Louis right wing Dave Christian.

Tampa-Atlanta shuttle: Esposito said he'll send two, possibly three, players today to Atlanta, the Lightning's minor-league affiliate. Although he wouldn't say who among the 27 players in camp would go, Mongeau "probably" would be the one.

"He has to find himself again," Esposito said of Mongeau, who had just one assist in four preseason games.

McLean, top draft pick

sign deals with Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Kirk McLean, a second-team All-Star goaltender last season, and top draft pick Libor Polasek signed contracts with the Vancouver Canucks.

McLean had a league-leading 38 wins and a 2.74 goals-against average last season as the Canucks enjoyed their best season ever.

Terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.

Polasek, an 18-year-old Czechoslovak, was the 21st pick overall in the 1992 entry draft. The 6-4, 235-pound center injured a shoulder during training camp and began skating with the team again last week.

Richter's 33 saves show

he's healthy for Rangers

NEW YORK _ Mike Richter made 33 saves as the New York Rangers wrapped up the preseason by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-0.

Richter made second-period breakaway stops on Drake Berehowsky and Peter Zezel _ and more important, he showed no effects of the groin injury that sidelined him for a month last spring and still has not fully healed.

The Rangers' third straight victory gave them a final preseason mark of 6-2-1.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.