When the Oilers traded defenseman Bryan Marchment and centers Steve Kelly and Jason Bonsignore to Tampa for underachieving 23-year-old Roman Hamrlik last week, they got a defenseman with a big shot and superior puckhandling and skating skills. Not many players have his raw ability. Edmonton is the perfect place for Hamrlik, who was the No. 1 draft pick in 1992, to finally reach his potential. First, he'll be playing in the Western Conference, where most teams employ a more wide-open style. Second, he'll be tutored by 19-year-veteran defenseman Kevin Lowe. Last season Lowe helped bring along young defensemen Dan McGillis and Greg de Vries, and both developed into solid players. I think Hamrlik will too.
Vancouver and Carolina also made a major swap: goalie Sean Burke, winger Geoff Sanderson and defenseman Enrico Ciccone to the Canucks for goalie Kirk McLean and winger Martin Gelinas. I like this trade for Vancouver. Burke is big, strong and fit, and, maybe most important, he has lots of incentive because he'll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Canucks coach Mike Keenan loves athletic goalies who can handle a heavy workload. (Do the names Hextall, Belfour, Richter and Fuhr ring a bell?) Sanderson, an elite goal scorer who has performed poorly this season, should improve under Keenan because he needs a firm hand, and Keenan will provide that. Also, the 25-year-old Sanderson has never played with a leader such as Mark Messier. Sanderson grew up in Edmonton watching and idolizing Messier. Like Hamrlik, Sanderson will flourish in the free flow of Western Conference hockey. McLean and Gelinas did not like Keenan, and the feeling was mutual. Big trade, and big help for Vancouver.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings are off to a strong start. How have they played so well without two-time Selke Trophy and Hart Trophy winner Sergei Fedorov? By using his absence as motivation. During the summer Fedorov chose not to accompany his Russian teammates Slava Fetisov, Slava Kozlov and Igor Larionov to their former home with the Stanley Cup. Fedorov's mates were also not impressed that instead of visiting Vlady Konstantinov in a Detroit hospital after the tragic limo accident, he was in England watching his girlfriend, tennis star Anna Kournikova, play Wimbledon. Since the start of the season Fedorov, a restricted free agent who is hoping for a lucrative contract offer, has been to Russia to watch Kournikova play tennis and spent 18 days in the Bahamas helping her train, and he's now living in Florida. He is one of the game's most dynamic talents, but his teammates are wondering about his commitment to the Red Wings and to hockey.