Lawton: No tampering issues with Rangers
Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said Tuesday the team has no tampering issue with the Rangers in regard to associate coach Mike Sullivan. Canada's TSN reported there perhaps was a problem, but Lawton said, "That's absolutely false. There's absolutely no tampering issue with Mike Sullivan and the New York Rangers."
Lawton declined to get into specifics about Sullivan's contractual situation, but it appears Sullivan has an escape clause in his contract that allows him to pursue other NHL jobs, even during the season, though Lawton confirmed the Rangers never approached him about Sullivan about joining the staff of former Lightning coach John Tortorella, who was hired Monday.
Sullivan's is an interesting situation. You recall he was fired by the Lightning along with Tortorella in June. As with Torts, Sullivan had a year remaining on his contract. The Lightning originally wanted Sullivan to coach AHL Norfolk, but Sullivan declined the option. Sullivan was brought back to Tampa Bay in November as the right-hand man to interim head coach Rick Tocchet, a move that has been widely praised and which Tocchet has said has worked out well.
It is reasonable to assume the clause was put in the contract because of the unique circumstances around Sullivan's rehiring.
There also was some hubbub around Tortorella's hiring by the Rangers. The original report was the hiring was being held up because the Lightning wanted some compensation from New York for hiring a coach that still, technically, was under contract. Torts had one year left on his deal. But league rules do not allow such compensation and Tortorella had a letter from June 2008, when he was fired, from then-general manager Jay Feaster, giving permission for Tortorella to talk to other NHL teams.
Reading between the lines, what probably miffed the Lightning was that the Rangers perhaps did not call Tampa Bay before contacting Torts. That was an awfully quick hire after Tom Renney was fired, after all. Because of the letter, though, it appears the Rangers did not need the Lightning's permission.
Lawton declined to discuss anything in that regard.