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Predators Start With Mike Richter

June 26, 1998 GMT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Starting with Mike Richter of the New York Rangers, the Nashville Predators made goaltenders a priority for more than one reason at today’s NHL expansion draft.

The Predators did not expect to keep all of the 26 players picked, particularly Richter, who is expected to re-sign with the Rangers.

``I firmly think the Rangers will try to sign him and will sign him. Our whole intention there was to get the compensatory draft pick,″ Nashville general manager David Poile said of the soon-to-be free agent. ``Uwe Krupp was in the same situation.″

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Krupp, a defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche, also was taken for compensation, Poile said.

Among the other goalies taken were Mikhail Shtalkenov of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Mike Dunham of the New Jersey Devils, Tomas Vokoun of the Montreal Canadiens and Frederic Chabot of the Los Angeles Kings.

Dunham, a highly regarded backup behind New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, was introduced at today’s news conference wearing a Predators’ jersey. He’s one of the goaltenders the Predators figure to keep.

``I’m excited to get this opportunity,″ Dunham said. ``I’m looking forward to training camp. I’m looking forward to going in there and earning everything I can.

``I’ve just been waiting for my opportunity. I look at this as another step. This is the step I want to take.″

The Predators took one player from each of the other 26 NHL teams. Along with the five goalies, the Predators took 13 forwards and eight defensemen.

Other defensemen taken by the Predators were Bob Boughner of Buffalo, Joel Bouchard of Calgary, Chris Armstrong of Florida, J.J. Daigneault of the New York Islanders, John Slaney of Phoenix, Al Iafrate of San Jose and Rob Zettler of Toronto.

The forwards: Mike Sullivan of Boston, Jeff Daniels of Carolina, Greg Johnson of Chicago, Patrick Cote of Dallas, Doug Brown of Detroit, Doug Friedman of Edmonton, Dennyl Lambert of Ottawa, Craig Darby of Philadelphia, Tony Hrkac of Pittsburgh, Blair Atcheynum of St. Louis, Paul Brousseau of Tampa Bay, Scott Walker of Vancouver and Andrew Brunette of Washingon.

The Predators will continue their hunt for talent in Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft of amateurs. 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.″

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``I look at that as more like three or four years away,″ Poile said of the entry draft players. ``Positionally, it means taking the best player.

The Predators are the 21st expansion team since the NHL broke the six-team mold in 1967, with more to come. The league will fill out to 30 teams by the year 2000 with the additions of Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio, and St. Paul, Minn.