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Saturday, June 24, 2006
Wild acquire Demitra from Kings for O'Sullivan, pick

Associated Press

The Minnesota Wild added a player for the future and one for the present at Saturday's NHL draft, trading for Los Angeles Kings veteran forward Pavol Demitra after choosing Canadian center James Sheppard.

Center
Los Angeles Kings

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2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM G A PTS +/- PIM
58 25 37 62 21 42

Sheppard was taken with the No. 9 pick. Then the Wild, using the No. 17 selection they received in the March trade of goalie Dwayne Roloson to the Edmonton Oilers, traded the pick and prospect Patrick O'Sullivan to the Kings for the 31-year-old Demitra.

Demitra began his career with the Ottawa Senators in 1993-94 and later spent eight seasons with the St. Louis Blues, leading the team in scoring four times and drawing invitations to three All-Star games. He signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract last summer with Los Angeles.

The native of Slovakia has two seasons remaining on the deal, which pays him $4.5 million per year. A nasal fracture sustained when he was hit in the face with a puck during the Olympics limited him to 58 games, but Demitra still scored 25 goals and tallied 37 assists -- good for 62 points, third on the Kings.

"He's just a good offensive player who is going to be very good for us," Minnesota president and general manager Doug Risebrough said by phone from Vancouver, where the draft was conducted. "He's got good values, and it's just going to be a good fit."

Demitra was the Lady Byng Trophy winner in 2000 with the Blues, an award given annually to a player exhibiting sportsmanship, gentlemanly play and exceptional ability.

Giving up O'Sullivan, the Wild's second-round draft pick in 2003, was not an easy choice, since he was one of the top scorers in an organization that is in need of them. O'Sullivan spent last season playing for the Houston Aeros, Minnesota's top minor league affiliate, and earned the AHL's rookie of the year award with 47 goals and 93 points in 78 games.

The opportunity to acquire an accomplished veteran for the front line, though, was too strong.

"One is now. One is down the road in the future," Risebrough said. "You can't do that without drafting well and developing players."

Three of the first eight picks in the draft were Minnesotans, including St. Paul native Kyle Okposo at No. 7 and Bloomington native Peter Mueller at No. 8 -- preventing the Wild from getting one of their own.

But they weren't unhappy with Sheppard, a big two-way player who is at least two years away from being ready for the NHL. The 18-year-old native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was the ninth-ranked North American skater by the league's scouting service. He had 30 goals and 54 assists in 66 games for Cape Breton last season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"We are very patient," Risebrough said.

Sheppard said he doesn't mind waiting. He'll use the time to work on his speed.

"I've only heard good things. The city, the rink, the fans, the whole organization. I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to play there," he said from Vancouver.

In the second round, the Wild chose 18-year-old Czech Republic native Ondrej Fiala, another center, with the 40th overall pick. The 14th-ranked North American skater after scoring 21 goals and notching 14 assists in 51 games for Everett in the Western Hockey League last season, Fiala is considered a strong skater and a solid, creative two-way player.