Isles Draft Preview and a Wish List

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Isles Draft Preview and a Wish List

Tempting as it may be with the prospect of an anticipated packed house on hand at the Coliseum, I won't be at the Islanders' draft party Friday night to see the No. 1 selection announced in person.

My softball team has a doubleheader that night, and with guys missing because of graduation parties (and the Subway series), we're a little short on players, and I'm a team guy all the way. So I'll be digging in at third base when Garth Snow makes an announcement that will either send the crowd into raucous celebration, or start a riot.

I'm betting on the former.

You can certainly make an argument for taking Victor Hedman at No. 1, since blueliners with his combination of size and speed come around as often as a waitress when you're ready for the check. And you can argue that Matt Duchene is the most complete forward available and deserves to be considered with Hedman and John Tavares at the top tier of the draft.

But while Snow has smartly played it coy, inviting all sorts of speculation, Tavares will be the pick here, and he should be. In his mock draft at SI.com, John Muir puts it best when he notes that Tavares has been picked apart by scouts and critics two seasons now and is still considered by most to be the best player available.

Yes, the Islanders could stand to shore up their defense, but the most glaring needs are up front. The team that scores the most goals wins, and the Isles are desperate for a scorer, never mind a marquee player that can sell tickets. Tavares fits the bill on both fronts.

So, if you're going to the draft party and you want Tavares, plan on celebrating. But bring a flak jacket just in case.

What's more interesting is what the Islanders do at No. 26 in the first round, and at that point perhaps a d-man can be taken. But best player available is the way to play it.

The draft is just the beginning of the offseason, and there will be other roster decisions to be made, including free agent signings.

Here's where I get greedy and the wishful thinking runs wild.

We know that the Lighthouse Project is finally getting some real political traction. Things are looking up for a change. The salary cap will likely remain at around $56 million, with a floor of $40 million. The Isles have a cap number of around $33 million with some holes to fill.

Steven Stamkos' cap number is just under $4 million, so let's use that for Taveras for argument's sake. And let's say resigning RFAs Blake Comeau, Nate Thompson and Jack Hillen add another $3 million to the payroll (we're rounding up). That puts the Isles at the floor.

But why stop there?

You want to help the defense? Sign Mike Komisarek. The West Islip native is a hard hitter who would strengthen the back line, and think of all those family and friends who won't have to trek up to Montreal to see him play. I figure it'd be $6 million a year.

There's a tremendous need on the left wing, and while I'm spending Charles Wang's money, how about Mike Cammaleri? Are you kidding? With a name like that he'd be a huge fan favorite. Oh, yeah, he's also 27 and scored 39 goals last season.

Dream on? OK, what about Maxim Afinogenov? He's regressed the last two seasons and he turns 30 in September, but if you're bargain hunting, why not roll the dice?

Of course, if the Isles did sign Komisarek, it would make players like Radek Martinek and Bruno Gervais expendable, and Jeff Tambellini could also be dealt, so they could trade for a left winger.

Will any of this happen? Probably not. But Snow has some options and there are some interesting players available, and maybe Wang is willing to throw a bit more cash around. After all, when you're used to losing $20 million a season, what's a few million more, right?

Enjoy the draft, buy your Tavares sweaters and get ready for what should be an interesting summer off the ice.

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