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Local teams prepare for NHL draft

The Islanders, Devils and Rangers enter this weekend's NHL Draft inPittsburgh sharing a common goal: supplant the Kings asStanley Cup champions.

The Islanders, Devils and Rangers enter this weekend's NHL Draft in Pittsburgh sharing a common goal: supplant the Kings as Stanley Cup Champions.

The three local NHL franchises also share the realization that, unless the unforeseen takes place in the house that Sidney Crosby built, Nail Yakupov will not pull their sweaters over his head Friday night.

The Sarnia Sting right wing is seen as the crown jewel of a weak draft crop. Yakupov finished 2011-12 with 31 goals and 69 points for the OHL franchise.

He will likely be off the board when the Islanders select at fourth overall and there is no chance he will be around when the Rangers and Devils select, unless one or both move up to a top-five spot.

Despite the Oilers' desperate need for defensemen, Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini may find using the No. 1 overall pick to add another high-end forward to a young corps that includes Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins irresistible.

If Tambellini passes on Yakupov for Everett Winterhawks defenseman Ryan Murray, the Sarnia star won't drop past the Canadiens, who have the third overall pick.

So that should leave Swedish right wing Filip Forsberg, Quebec Remparts center Mikhail Grigorenko or Yakupov's Sarnia teammate, Alex Galchenyuk, as the players most likely to hear their names called by Islanders' GM Garth Snow.

Regardless of whom the eventual selection will be, the onus will be on the player to contribute to the NHL club immediately as it appears the Islanders will lose top-line winger P.A. Parenteau in free agency.

Potentially losing a key component in free agency could be something of a bonding moment for the Islanders and the Devils, who own the No. 29 overall pick after losing to the Kings in the Stanley Cup final.

GM Lou Lamoriello reported that the Devils were going to "keep [the pick]" when he met with reporters on breakup day at the Prudential Center last week in response to questions about surrendering the pick. The NHL had fined the Devils $3 million, rescinded the team's 2011 third-round draft pick and gave the organization its choice of four years (2011-2015) to forfeit a first-round pick as punishment for Ilya Kovalchuk's 17-year, $102 million cap-circumventing contract during summer 2010.

While the Islanders continue to stockpile prospects and the Devils rebuild their farm system, the Rangers appear ready to add skill to a team that finished first overall in the East.

The Rangers have just four picks in the draft, including the No. 28 overall, and the possibility exists that GM Glen Sather will attempt to parlay the first-round pick and players in a trade to bolster an offensive attack that scored two or fewer goals in 13 of 20 playoff games.

Reportedly, the Rangers are among 10 teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, who have inquired about Columbus forward Rick Nash's availability.

It should seem to be a no-doubt-about-it decision to deal for one of the NHL's premier power forwards, but there are very real concerns pertaining to a trade for Nash.

The 28-year old is coming off of a season in which he played all 82 games. He finished with 30 goals, 59 points and a minus-19 rating, but his goal and point totals have fallen each of the last four seasons. Nash has recorded 547 points (289 goals) and a minus-71 rating in 674 regular season games.

He has only competed in one Stanley Cup playoff series, a four-game sweep at the hands of the Red Wings in the 2009 Western Conference quarterfinals. Nash finished the series with a goal and three points.

The team that acquires Nash will be on the hook for a contract that calls for the left wing to earn $46.8 million over the next six seasons. The contract also has both a no movement clause (through the 2014-15 season) and a no trade clause (2015-16 through 2017-18 seasons).

Then, there is the issue of Columbus GM Scott Howson's asking price for Nash. Howson was unapologetic on trade deadline day when he told reporters that the return for Nash "had to be high." He reiterated those words during a recent interview on the NHL's in-house television network's nightly wrap-up show.

Howson's demands coupled with Nash's financial cost and declining productivity may cause rival general managers to use the free agency period in an attempt to wait the Columbus executive out.

Or they could pass on Nash in favor of Anaheim right wing Bobby Ryan.

The 25-year old Ryan has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last four seasons, including 31 goals last year. He has three years remaining on his contract, which has an annual average value of $5.1 million, a very cap-friendly number.



Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for all your offseason and draft news.

 
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