THE ISLANDERS will hear numerous offers for the No. 1 pick in this weekend's entry draft, but barring an over-the-top package, they should resist the temptation to make a trade and instead select OHL scoring sensation John Tavares. Not only is the Ontario-born Tavares skilled enough to jump-start the Islanders' offense almost immediately (he had 433 points in 247 OHL games over the past four seasons), but the winger also brings star power. The Islanders—like the Flyers in 1992 when they acquired holdout No. 1 pick Eric Lindros from the Nordiques, and the Penguins when they drafted Sidney Crosby in 2005—need both a ray of hope and a drawing card. New York, which hasn't won a playoff series in 16 years and has been last in NHL attendance each of the past two seasons, is seeking public financing for a new arena to replace the 37-year-old Nassau Coliseum. Tavares could help that quest, just as the presence of Lindros and Crosby helped lead to new buildings in those players' respective cities.
With an active trade market expected at the draft in Montreal, here are three other teams to watch.
They hold the No. 2 pick—likely 6'6" 220-pound Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, or OHL center Matt Duchene—but even more enticing is a potential trade of Vincent Lecavalier, the superb $8 million-a-year center whose move could provide the foundation for the team to rebuild. The Kings and the Canadiens are both deeply interested in acquiring the 29-year-old Lecavalier, who could bring back a top six forward, a top four defenseman, a prospect and a draft pick. In such a deal the acquiring team would look to unload a fair amount of salary to offset Lecavalier's contract, which runs through 2019--20.
Captain Patrick Marleau is coming off a career-high 38 goals, but he has been a perennial playoff disappointment and the Sharks haven't advanced past the second round since 2004. Marleau could headline a large trade package and may be better suited to an environment in which he is simply expected to score and not lead. Star center Joe Thornton, who also has struggled to produce in the postseason and who may not be invited to Team Canada's Olympic camp this summer, will stay in San Jose.
Phil Kessel, the revived phenom who at 21 delivered 36 goals this season, becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, and despite the chemistry that he developed with Marc Savard and Milan Lucic on Boston's phenomenal top line last year, he could well be dealt. The emergence of 23-year-old center David Krejci, recently signed through 2011--12, would compensate for the loss of Kessel, who could bring back multiple players, including a needed defenseman.
Now on SI.com
On-the-spot coverage of the NHL draft, and Michael Farber's analysis, at SI.com/bonus