Jacques Demers: selling a Vinny trade to fans would be difficult but doable
Had a long talk the other day with former Lightning coach Jacques Demers, who is now a television analyst for Canada's RDS network. Not surprising the discussion turned to Vinny Lecavalier and the rumors that we will hear perhaps all summer that he could be traded.
Again, just to lay the groundwork, there is no guarantee the star center will be dealt. I believe GM Brian Lawton when he says he is not calling around looking for takers, but I also believe given the Lightning's financial situation and Lecavalier's $10 million salary next season, it actually is prudent for Tampa Bay to listen to what teams have to offer.
There are other considerations, as well, beyond the consequences on the ice. And as we discussed in last week's story, it is not lost on the Lightning brass that Lecavalier said he is planning to have a "great" season in 2009-10 and will begin workouts two weeks earlier than usual, with an emphasis on increasing leg strength and explosiveness, to make sure that happens.
The team also has almost four months to sell tickets, and trading Lecavalier in the short term would hurt that effort. He also has a no-move clause that takes effect on July 1 with his new contract. Trading him before that date after signing him to an 11-year, $85 million dealand talking about how the organization wants to keep him for his entire playing career and beyond, could send a bad message. Trading him after July 1, when Lecavalier would have to be part of the process and have a say in where he goes would make the situation (at least from Lecavalier's standpoint and maybe even from the organization's) a lot less stressful.
The fans, though, would be the wild card, and that is where Demers comes in:
"If he trades Vinny, he can't make a mistake," Demers said of Lawton. "If he trades Vinny and gets quality players in return, he can turn this whole franchise around. That's what he's probably mulling every day when he gets up until when he goes to bed. He's in a position right now where he could turn the franchise around."
And if a trade does happen, "One thing they have to sell to the people is we didn't trade him because of the money," Demers said. "We traded him because we felt we needed more depth and better players. It's not about the money. If you trade him and talk about the money, you're really going to be in trouble with your fans. So, forget the money. You signed him to that contract."
Demers is in an interesting position. He has to be an impartial analyst but is also a close friend of Lecavalier and his family. He was Vinny's first coach with the Lightning. If Demers was Tampa Bay's GM, he said, "I would keep him."
"But if there is a Vinny trade -- and you will never forget Vinny, he'll always be the face of the franchise -- if you sell it; the GM is also a salesman to the media and to the fans, so if they sell it good and they get in return quality players that could come in and help change the franchise, everything is all well."
Demers said he basis that on his vision of the Lightning with bright light Seven Stamkos and what he considers the team's no-brainer choice to take potential cornerstone defenseman Victor Hedman with the No. 2 pick in the draft.
"If they make the right trade, with them having Stamkos and possibly the big defenseman, and they get two or three good players, the whole franchise could be turned around in one instance and they make the playoffs, and then you never know what happens after that," Demers said.
Bottom line, he added, "If you keep (Lecavalier), you'll be playing really good hockey next year. But if you trade him and get really good quality players in return, it's a win-win situation."