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Tentative agreement reached in sale of Tampa Bay Lightning to Jeffrey Vinik



It is not yet a done deal, but a tentative agreement apparently has been reached in the proposed sale of the Lightning to Boston hedge fund manager Jeff Vinik. More work has to be done and final signatures still are needed, but the process occurring at the NHL offices in New York seems to be in its final stages. The money still has not been revealed but it is believed it will be substantially less than the $170 million reported by the Hockey News.

It is believed Vinik, 50, is self-financing the deal and will be a sole proprietor, meaning current co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie, as well as six limited partners will not have a role. It also is believed that once a purchase agreement is signed, Vinik will take control of player payroll. That is a big issue as the SportsBusiness Daily web site reported last month that to help meet January's payroll, the team took an advance on revenue sharing it will get after the season.

Closing the deal would be the next step. Since Vinik is self financing, that should not be a long process.

Those in New York were not talking and neither was the team's front office. Players and coaches say they are aware of the situation, but don't spend much time thinking about it.

"We can't control it," defenseman Mattias Ohlund said. "The only thing we can control is the hockey games. Hopefully, we put people in the stands and make this a better financial situation. But as far as the other stuff, we can't control it. For us, it's continuing to focus on the stuff we do inside here."

Said coach Rick Tocchet: "Honestly, I don't know if the guys are talking about it at Starbucks, but in the room, I haven't heard it. It's just something I don't want in the room. We shouldn't be talking about ownership and what's going to happen on a game day or practice day. We've got too much going on right now. Its nothing you can control anyway, so why enter into it and speculate about it."

Indeed, if the season ended yesterday, the Lightning would be in the playoffs as the East's eighth seed.

"It's my job to keep a bubble around us," Tocchet said. "Any good team or any team that is in a playoff run, you insulate yourself from all that stuff. You have to because if you let things creep in, it's excuses and distractions."

"There's some small talk," Ohlund said. "We play so many games, the focus is day-to-day on different teams. But it's not like the guys don't listen to what's going on. The guys read the papers and have a pretty good idea. But we have to focus on the stuff we can control, and that's playing hockey games. If we do that, it will benefit everybody, not just ownership."

Other stuff from the morning skate: Looks as if the team expects forward Paul Szczechura to spend more than just a conditioning assignment with AHL Norfolk as he has been put on waivers. We will know at noon Friday if he clears. ... Antero Niittymaki will start in net against the Islanders. ... RW Brandon Bochenski will be scratched. ... Center Nate Thompson faces his former tam for the first time since he was claimed off waivers. "It will be a little weird playing against them," Thompson said. "But at the same time it will be fun. It's like playing against your brother. You want to beat them and rub it in their face as much as you can, but at the same time laugh about it." ... In his first five games since missing six with a knee injury, forward Jeff Halpern had two goals and four points. In seven games since, Halpern has zero points and is minus-5. Halpern said it has nothing to do with his knee. My knee is not bothering me at all," he said. "Some of it is bad luck, some of it is just not playing as god. I don't think it has anything to do with the injury as much as one of those things." Said Tocchet: "I just think he's a little off his game. When he gets in trouble, he circles a bit. Maybe try to get on the forecheck a little quicker and get on offense a little quicker." ... The Lightning is tied for seventh in the league in faceoff percentage at 51.2 percent. Vinny Lecavalier is ranked 17th in the league at 53.9 percent. But three other top faceoff players who do not qualify to be ranked (you must have taken at least 15 percent of a team's faceoffs) are Zenon Konopka (61.4 percent), Thompson (54.1) and Halpern (52.2). With so many options, how does Tocchet decide who to put on the ice for a draw? "I look at ice time," Tocchet said. "If you're overplaying guys, a fresher Konopka or a fresher Thompson will be better for you. It's nice to have those other guys."     

[Last modified: Saturday, March 6, 2010 12:15am]


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