Philadelphia Flyers Wheel and Deal on the First Day of NHL Draft

By Bill Meltzer

On the first day of the 2001 NHL entry draft, the Philadelphia Flyers made a pair of trades, affecting both their first and second round selections.

The Flyers traded their first round pick (#23 overall) to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three draft picks (#27 overall, #225 overall, and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2nd round pick in 2002). The move caused some raised eyebrows, as the Flyers had at their disposal several of the most prominent defensemen in the draft. By moving down to #27, the Flyers were hoping that one of three defensemen they were eyeing (probably Tim Gleason , Lukas Krajicek and Jeff Woywitka ) would still be there when the 27th pick came up. Gleason and Krajicek were taken with the next two picks, but Woywitka was still there at #27.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Flyers dealt their second round pick (#56 overall) to Florida, in exhange for the rights to unsigned veteran Czech center Jiri Dopita. Dopita, who will turn 33 in December, has long been considered one of the biggest stars in European hockey and is a long-time fixture on the Czech national team.

Over the last nine years, Dopita has rebuffed numerous offers to come to the NHL. His rights were previously been held by Boston and the New York Islanders before they were dealt to Florida, and numerous other teams have inquired about his availability over the years. Until now, the answer was always no.

Why the change now? For one, he is close friends with his former Vsetin teammate Roman Cechmanek, another veteran Czech star who finally gave the NHL a try at the age of 29 and thrived in his new environment. Secondly, Vsetin, winners of six consecutive Czech championships, have announced that the club is bankrupt.

The deal itself is not a surprise– earlier this week, Flyers GM Bob Clarke confirmed the team was interested in Dopita and the trade had been widely rumored in North America for the last week and in the Czech Republic for several weeks previously. However, the level of compensation (a second round pick) did come as a minor surprise, given Dopita’s age and lack of availability to the Panthers. Obviously, for the Flyers to give up a second round pick, they had to be confident of Dopita’s signability.

Indeed, it has subsequently been confirmed that the Flyers have signed Dopita to an undisclosed contract. A report surfaced in the Czech Republic last Friday that Dopita had agreed to a one year, $1.4 million deal, with the Flyers pending completion of a deal with Florida. As yet, it has not been confirmed that those, in fact, are the terms of the deal, but the figure is probably in the right neighborhood.

As of now, Dopita stands as the Flyers second line center for the 2001-2002 season. However, if the Flyers, as strongly rumored, make a serious pitch for unrestricted free agent center Jeremy Roenick, Dopita could potentially drop to the third line center spot, making Daymond Langkow expendable in a deal for blueline help (or possibly seeing Langkow or Dopita tried as a winger, although this does not seem likely).

The Panthers dealt to Calgary the 56th overall pick that the Flyers sent them for Dopita’s rights. The Flames selected Russian goaltender Andrei Medvedev with the pick.

The Flyers did not have their own third pick, which had been sent to Chicago in the Dean McAmmond deal. However, they had 95th overall selection (originally a Detroit pick), which they acquired from Nashville in the Mark Eaton trade. The Flyers used the pick to select speedy University of Vermont center Patrick Sharp.

Profiles and analysis of all Flyers draft picks will be posted after the entry draft is completed tomorrow.