Draft ends without big trades

Monday, June 23, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A healthy dose of caution prevailed at the NHL Draft, where teams took advantage of a very young pool of talent and held off on blockbuster deals.

With a possible lockout looming in September 2004, NHL clubs looked toward the distant future instead of seeking quick-fix solutions.

"It was a more sedate event than I thought it was going to be. I thought there was going to be more activity," Vancouver general manager Brian Burke said Sunday, the second and final day of the nine-round draft.

The biggest trade of the weekend came before the first pick, which was dealt from Florida to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The biggest name rumored to be on the move was Washington forward Jaromir Jagr, but he stayed put -- for now.

The Capitals star was just one high-priced player mentioned as teams look to cut salaries going into the final year of the league's current labor agreement. In the new deal, the NHL wants to limit disparities between large and small market teams and improve competitiveness.

"We think a new system is coming," Burke said. "We have done all of our preparation on that basis on how our team is set up."

The Canucks were not alone even though officials scurried about trying to stir up a deal. They didn't find any buyers, not even with teams like the free-spending New York Rangers, rumored to be interested in Jagr.

The draft concluded Sunday with center Marty Murray, the biggest player swapped, going from Philadelphia to Carolina for a 2004 draft pick.

The relative lack of trades meant the final six rounds wrapped up Sunday in about three hours, only taking that long because so many teams took turns thanking Nashville for its Southern hospitality.

Toronto general manager Pat Quinn said he thinks teams will wait on player movement until after the start of the free-agent season on July 1.

The list of players expected to be available includes Teemu Selanne, goaltender Felix Potvin, Slava Kozlov, defenseman Derian Hatcher, forward Darren McCarty, and center Joe Nieuwendyk.

But Quinn cautioned against expecting many big offers.

"The numbers I've heard as far as salaries are ludicrous, so I don't know how many teams are going to act until the market changes a bit," Quinn said.

"Right now I'm not smart enough to figure out where it's going to go," he added. "There's a lot of people working hard ... to make their teams better in an affordable way."

That is the route Pittsburgh is taking. The Penguins made the first and biggest trade of the weekend by moving up two spots to draft goaltender Marc-Andre Fleur.

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