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Predators looking for assets, talent in draft

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Mike Richter starting in goal for the Nashville Predators? It's possible, but more likely it will be someone like Mike Dunham.

While general manager David Poile has indicated he will consider high-priced free agents while putting together his team at today's expansion draft, the Predators will probably be more practical in the final analysis.Dunham, a highly regarded backup behind New Jersey's Martin Brodeur, is one of the goalies most mentioned as one of the Predators' potential selections.

Not that Poile wouldn't love to have Richter, the No. 1 goalie of the New York Rangers. He will be a free agent by July 1 if he doesn't sign with them.

"I'd really like to do that," Poile told The Tennessean in regard to drafting a high-profile free agent, then trading him for compensatory draft picks. "We have 26 picks, so if I can get two or three compensatory picks, it would be great."

Under draft rules, the Predators will take one player from each of the NHL's other 26 teams - 13 forwards, eight defensemen, three goalies and two others at any other position. They can select six free agents among the 26 players.

"I will probably take five goaltenders," Poile said. "Not only goaltenders for the Predators, but assets I can trade after the draft. Our goaltenders could probably be our best assets."

Among the other goalies available: Mark Fitzpatrick of Tampa Bay, Kirk McLean of Florida, Chicago's Chris Terreri, Garth Snow of Vancouver, Jamie McLennan of St. Louis, Ron Tugnutt of Ottawa and Anaheim's Mikhail Shtalenkov.

There are some familiar names available, though: Philadelphia's Paul Coffey, Carolina's Kevin Dineen, Toronto's Derek King and New Jersey's Steve Thomas. Brett Hull will be available as a free agent, as will Pittsburgh's Ron Francis and Pat LaFontaine of the New York Rangers if they don't sign with their teams by the July 1 deadline.

Except for possibly picking up a free agent or two for compensatory reasons, the Predators will more likely stick with such as Washington's Andrew Burnette, Detroit's Doug Brown and Brent Gilchrist, Buffalo's Dixon Ward and Boston's Mike Sullivan.

The Predators will continue their hunt for talent in Saturday's NHL Entry Draft featuring the top amateurs in the world. Nashville has the third pick behind Tampa Bay and San Jose. By that time, Vincent Lecavalier figures to be gone. He's the consensus No. 1 pick from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and is tabbed as the "next Mario Lemieux."