A mighty wild card

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

Brian Burke knows all about being a last-minute dealer.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks GM could be the busiest guy on the floor when the 30 NHL teams gather for the annual entry draft today at the Westin Hotel.

There's no mystery about the No. 1 pick -- the Pittsburgh Penguins will announce phenom Sidney Crosby's name shortly after noon today.

But Burke was on his cellphone yesterday trying hard to wheel and deal the No. 2 selection he holds.

"I've made two big deals at the draft before and they both happened on the floor," said Burke, the former Vancouver Canucks GM.

Sources say Burke has plenty of irons in the fire, with teams trying to move up in the draft so they can select Team USA defenceman Jack Johnson after Crosby is handed his Penguins sweater by owner Mario Lemieux.

And it's believed the Canucks have emerged as the frontrunner by offering a package that includes defenceman Ed Jovanovski, because Vancouver GM David Nonis needs to cut salary to re-sign captain Markus Naslund.

Burke has a lot of respect for Jovanovski and if he's going to trade the pick, he's told teams: "I want a front line player who can help me right away." In fact, Burke might not even ask for for a No. 1 pick in return if he gets the right player.

It should be noted Nonis is Burke's former right-hand man from their days together with the Canucks, and it would only make sense for these two to become dance partners.

But the Canucks aren't alone in their pursuit of the No. 2 selection:

- The Ducks have held conversations with the St. Louis Blues about defenceman Chris Pronger, who is schedule to make $7.2 million (all figures US) next season. Anaheim wants permission to speak with Pronger about a contract extension before making that kind of deal. The Atlanta Thrashers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers have also been mentioned as hotspots where Pronger and his huge salary could land. The word is the Leafs don't have the salary room and the Thrashers maintained they're probably not going to be a player.

"We have always said that we're looking for a defenceman of (Pronger's level)," said Thrashers GM Don Waddell. "But I would think we would be better off waiting until Aug. 1 to see what is available on the free-agent market. We would like to have a big- time defenceman. There's no question about it."

- Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix goes about his work quietly, but he's been all over Burke with a package that would send Milan Hejduk and/or Alex Tanguay to the Ducks. The Philadelphia Flyers are also pushing to move up along with the Montreal Canadiens.

"We haven't received any offers that merit consideration," said Burke. "We've received lots of tire-kicking. I guess we did get one offer that I would describe as legitimate but not enough to make the deal."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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