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Another shot at a No. 1 goalie

26

February

There were several parts to the Brad Richards deal. There was the acquisition of left wing Jussi Jokinen, who is about as reliable as they come in shootouts, and center Jeff Halpern, a steady, professional player who has some scoring ability but is likely more valuable as a penalty-kill, forechecking kind of guy. There also was the acquisition of a fourth-round draft pick in 2009.

Most intriguing, though, is goaltender Mike Smith, who will be in net Wednesday night against the Wild, if he gets to town on time.

The Lightning, fearful that too many teams would be after Cristobal Huet during the summer and the price would skyrocket, decided Smith could be their goaltender of the future. He certainly is affordable at $950,000.

For Tampa Bay, the beauty of the deal is that it gets the season's final 20 games to evaluate the guy, unlike how it handled Marc Denis, who was acquired over the summer and given a huge contract that still has hamstrung the team.

"We get to see him play,'' Tortorella said. "I don't know him that well, and we haven't seen him play that much, but the people around us have done a lot of extensive work. I even had a couple of players contact me who have played with him and spoken very highly of him.

"I think it's a good deal,'' Tortorella added, "and I hate saying that because Brad Richards is involved in it. But you put that aside and you think of the business part of it and how it helps your team, I think it's a good deal.''

Defenseman Shane O'Brien, who played with Smith for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, said Smith is a great puck handler. He said he even believes Smith scored a goal for Lexington of the East Coast Hockey League.

"He's good,'' O'Brien said. "He can move the puck just as well as anyone in the league. I've seen him and played against him in the AHL. He's big, covers a lot of net, good angles. Just how he plays the puck, for a defenseman that's huge. It's easier when a goalie can make that pass into the corner and break out.'' 

As for Halpern, Tortorella knows him well from Halpern's days in the East playing for the Capitals. Halpern has 10 goals this season.

"He's a right-hand center, and right-handers you're always looking for, there just aren't that many,'' Tortorella said. "He's a solid citizen. He's a good guy. You know, he's done some pretty good things for them. He can kill penalties. He can check. He's responsible. I talked to him at the World Championships a couple of years ago during the lockout. I was putting pressure on him then. I think he can be a goal-scorer too. I think he needs to put some pressure on himself to score some goals. He's a good player. He's a pro. He'll help in a lot of different ways.''

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]

    

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