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GM Steve Yzerman says signing Marty St. Louis to a contract extension is "a priority"

16

June

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman put into motion a process which he hopes will end with a contract extension for star wing Marty St. Louis. Yzerman said he spoke on Wednesday to St. Louis' agent and hopes a deal that "makes sense" for both sides can be worked out.

"He's a first-class guy and he deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, and I'll do that," Yzerman said. "Where it ends up, we'll see. They want to make a deal that makes sense for them, and I have to make a deal that makes sense for us. We have some time to get it done, but it definitely is a priority for me."

It is an interesting turn of events. After last season, St. Louis, the 2004 regular-season MVP who turns 35 on Friday and has one year left on a deal that pays $4 million next season, said if he did not like the direction of the team he might ask for a trade. He also had been upset with Yzerman, who left him off Canada's gold-medal Olympic team, though that did not top St. Louis from calling Yzerman's hire a smart one for the organization.

But Yzerman sounded as if he couldn't do without the Laval, Quebec, native who last season had 29 goals, a team-best 65 assists and 94 points and is a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy.

"I had a great conversation with him," Yzerman said. "He's a very smart guy and prepared and thought out."

Of St. Louis' attributes, Yzerman said, "He had a tremendous year last year. He's in tremendous shape. He's a great leader. He's well respected in the locker room. He's a great example for our young players, so there's a lot of reasons other than his production on the ice that I would like to keep him in the organization and keep him on the team."

Still, Yzerman said, any deal must work within the team's long-term structure. 

"All I can do right now is figure out what we can do and the type of contract, the length of it and the term we can do keeping in mind everything else we have to do over the next couple of years," Yzerman said, adding. "He's 35. He wants to win. He wants to be in a good program and he wants to negotiate a contract he feels good about, and I respect all of that and it makes perfect sense. ... You've got to find a solution that makes sense for both sides, and I hope we can do that."

St. Louis could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yzerman hit a bunch of topics on Wednesday:

* He said he has not spoken to defenseman Paul Ranger, who missed almost all of last season due to an undisclosed personal matter, but he intends to send a qualifying contract offer to Ranger to retain his negotiating rights. It would seem that Ranger, a good passer from the defensive zone, would be a fit in coach Guy Boucher's offense, which thrives on pushing the puck forward. Qualifying offers must be sent out by June 28. Lightning players who likely won't be qualified, making them free agents, are center Chris Lawrence, right wing Lauri Tukonen and left wing Radek Smolenak.

* Yzerman said he will try to re-sign free agent defenseman Kurtis Foster if the numbers make sense.

* With the No. 6 pick in the draft, Yzerman said he wants the best player available, but did not tip his hand as to who is on top of Tampa Bay's board. Yzerman said there is a "remote" chance he will trade the pick.

* He said he and owner Jeff Vinik have yet to determine the budget for salaries for next season, and a big splash in free agency is not likely, though not impossible. He said it is more likely he will wait to see who is left over after the first flurry of big-time, big-money signings.

* Yzerman said he still is deciding who will coach AHL Norfolk and be its general manager. Those decisions might not come until mid to late July. Jim Johnson, who took over last season after coach Darren Rumble was fired, still is under contract.        

[Last modified: Friday, July 16, 2010 12:15am]

    

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