A case for Vinny staying in Tampa ... for now
Just trying to look at this from a logical angle. Forget the emotion of what the Canadiens fans might want for a second; and they certainly made their wishes clear with the ovations Vinny Lecavalier got during All-Star weekend. And forget that when asked in Montreal if he thought he would finish the season in Tampa, the Lightning captain said, "I think so." It might just be simple facts on the ground that keeps the face of the franchise in Tampa through the end of the season.
Not making any predictions about how this all will play out. But these two scenarios are worth considering. Either the Lightning keeps winning or it goes back to losing. Either way, the Lightning has compelling reasons for keeping Lecavalier.
First, they keep winning: If that is the case and Tampa Bay puts itself in playoff contention, the plan, heading toward the March 4 trade deadline, should not be to unload its best player but to tweak the roster, even around the edges, that coach Rick Tocchet and staff have done so well to bring together.
Or, they go back to losing: If you're the Lightning, this is a tough one. The instinct might be to get a huge haul of players for Lecavalier and remake the team going forward. Lecavalier could return some top-shelf defensemen, which Tampa Bay needs. A trade would also get the team out from under his huge contract. On the other hand, season-ticket renewals go out in March. What kind of selling job would the team have to do to convince economically stressed fans to buy season tickets to a losing team without its marquee player? We've seen and heard the reaction of many of Tampa Bay fans to the trade rumors, and it could be something the team would have to throw into the equation.
I'm not saying this is the way it's going to happen, just some food for thought on what the thinking might be for the rest of this season. What happens over the summer, that's another story.
What I don't completely buy is the notion it is in Lecavalier's hands, that he will decide whether he stays or goes depending on if he wants to continue to play in Tampa. I just don't believe any team would handcuff itself that way. I can see trying to accommodate a player if he really wants to leave. But saying a team won't make a trade that could help it in the long run because a player wants to stay seems to be shortsighted.
As Lecavalier told reporters in Montreal when asked if he was going to finish the season in Tampa, "In the end, it's not up to me to answer a question like that because it's a bit out of my control."