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Lightning acquires Prospal's negotiating rights



Vinny20 Tampa Bay is making an early attempt to fill one of its open forward positions, and it wants to bring back an old favorite to do it. The Lightning on Wednesday acquired the negotiating rights to Vinny Prospal's contract. Tampa Bay sent the Flyers, to whom Prospal was traded at the deadline for defenseman Alex Picard, a seventh-round draft pick in this weekend's draft. If Prospal signs with the Lightning, the Flyers also get a fourth-round pick in 2009.

Prospal, 33, who had 33 goals and 71 points last season (29 and 57 with Tampa Bay), can be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. It was believed Prospal was hoping to earn $5-million a season on the open market. But Prospal loves the Tampa Bay area, he loves playing with Vinny Lecavalier and now that coach John Tortorella is gone - remember the interview on the St. Pete Times Forum scoreboard when Prospal called out his coach? - perhaps Prospal comes down in his demand.

"After assessing the pending free agent market and receiving a great deal of input from our prospective new owners, the decision was made to attempt to pursue Vinny Prospal for a return engagement to Tampa,” GM Jay Feaster said in a statement. “While we realize some of the risks involved in this strategy, we also know that Prospal and Lecavalier have a very special chemistry together and getting Vinny back in the fold early would enable us to focus our time, attention and resources on other critical areas this summer while leaving our successful top line virtually in tact. At the end of the day, we felt that reacquiring Vinny now and attempting to negotiate a contract with him sooner rather than later was in the best interests of the organization."

Whatever the circumstances (Prospal is in Europe and could not be immediately reached), the Lightning now has 12 days of exclusive negotiating rights. Expect a deal to be worked out and Prospal to begin his third stint with Tampa Bay. He was originally acquired from Florida in exchange for Ryan Johnson and a sixth-round choice in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft on July 10, 2001. He became a free agent on July 1, 2003 and was then re-acquired from Anaheim in exchange for a second-round pick in 2005 on August 16, 2004.

Here's a question, though. Considering the Lightning's depleted farm system, how smart is dealing away two draft choices?  On the other hand, Tampa Bay had three seventh-round choices this year and two fourth-round picks in 2009, one coming from the Stars in the Brad Richards trade.

As Feaster said, "If there was a time to do it, this was as good a time as you could pick."

For a look at Prospal's career stats: click here.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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