Lecavalier situation is status quo
Lightning general manager Brian Lawton took about 15 minutes Thursday to tell reporters at Tampa Bay's morning skate that rumors about the team perhaps trading superstar center Vinny Lecavalier are just that. Really, though, the basic story line has not changed. First, though, here's what Lawton said about Lecavalier.
"He's not being traded today. He's not being traded tomorrow. He's not being traded any time soon," Lawton said. "This should put everything to rest. I know there are wild rumors. Those are the facts. ... It got out of hand," Lawton said, "and not because of anything this club did or anyone involved with this club."
As for the media reports focusing more on Lecavalier than the improvements the team has made lately, he said, "It's very disheartening. But at the end of the day, it doesn't sell as well as controversial issues. We're not selling that, but I understand why other people want to push it in that direction. I understand that, and I get it. It's wrong. We all live in that world and we accept it. The tea is playing better. That's what the focus should be on."
The thing is, though, nothing Lawton said really is different from what has been reported.
The team is not shopping Lecavalier. That has been reported. The team always listens when another team calls with trade proposals. That has been reported. Lawton called "a fair comment" for people to wonder how the team, in the current world-wide financial climate can afford to pay Lecavalier's new 11-year, $85-million contract extension. That has been reported. Lawton even added, "It's not true. We signed him with the intent of him being here."
And whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the Lightning indeed have had internal discussions about whether the team is better off with Lecavalier or the assets he could bring in a trade. That is not an outrageous statement. Any team struggling as badly as Tampa Bay SHOULD have that discussion. It is the right thing to do.
"He's not being traded today. He's not being traded tomorrow. He's not being traded any time soon This should put everything to rest," Lawton said.
Well, no it won't because the Lightning still has serious financial issues through which to work, part of which is waiting for the economy to get better. It also has to decide how it wants to build it's team going forward. Until those issues are resolved, teams will continue to call and there will be speculation. That the Lightning paid a $500,000 bonus to Lecavalier on Thursday and that deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly confirmed, again, that the league is not financially involved with Tampa Bay should calm the waters some. But the Lecavalier story will linger.
As for Lecavalier, the calm and cool one showed a few cracks.
"I signed with Tampa for 11 years thinking I'd be here," he said. "Obviously, it was a big decision for me this summer. The people in Tampa have been great to me, the team, we won a Stanley Cup here. It's definitely been a stressful few days. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. But right now, it's just rumors. That's all it is."
Other stuff from this morning: Mike Smith is expected to start in net. ... Right wing Steve Downie, called up today from AHL Norfolk will get playing time on Lecavalier's line with Vinny Prospal. "Vinny needs and A and B type player, and he'll go to the net," coach Rick Tocchet said. ... With Paul Ranger (upper body) likely not playing, the Lightning's new defenseman? Left wing David Koci, whom Tocchet said "was one of our best players" in Tuesday's 7-1 loss to the Sharks. Koci said he is a natural defenseman, and only switched to forward when he played for the Blackhawks organization before coming to Tampa Bay. "Right now, I enjoy my place," he said of playing forward. "I like that you can go fast on the forecheck and just hammer the guys. It's fun." ... Defenseman Kevin Quick called his NHL debut against San Jose "amazing." Quick, you might recall was dismissed from the University of Michigan team for stealing and using a teammate's credit card. Quick's agent Steve Bartlett said his client is in a pre-trial diversion program that will expunge his record if he stays out of trouble for a year. "Every day you wake up and realize what you did," quick said. "You kind of put that behind you now and just take it day by day, just think about hockey and do my best." ... No word on who will be the scratch at forward. ... Goalie Olie Kolzig (left arm) is back practicing with the team. ... Right wing Marty St. Louis will be miked during tonight's Sun Sports broadcast. ... The acting surgeon general of the United States, Rear Admiral Steven Galson will tonight present the Lightning Foundation with the Surgeon General's Champion Award for the foundation's Fit Families for Life program.