Video: Kubina says Lightning will always "belong to my heart"
Veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina packed up his Lightning locker Sunday morning, even collecting the nameplate as a keepsake.
Kubina, 34, traded to the Flyers Saturday for a second and fourth round pick, appeared emotional as he described how difficult it is to leave the organization he's spent parts of 10 seasons with. Drafted by Lightning founder Phil Esposito, Kubina grew up as a player with Tampa Bay, winning a Stanley Cup and immersing himself into the community over two separate stints, developing "friends for life."
"This team is always going to belong to my heart," Kubina said.
Kubina, who plans to join Philadelphia Monday, has been held out of practices and games since Thursday, when general manager Steve Yzerman called him into his office and told him they'd like to move him. Yzerman asked for five teams Kubina would be willing to get dealt to, and though the 6-4, 258-pound Czech was disappointed, he considered it with his family for a couple days. He never submitted a list, but when Yzerman called and said the Flyers offered a great deal, Kubina felt it was the "right thing to do."
"It's a great team, with a mix of young stars," Kubina said of the Flyers. "It's a very good team with so much tradition, passionate fans. I talked to my family, it's another chance for me to go and play for a great team and for a Stanley Cup contender and be in the playoffs again."
Kubina has such a connection for the area he still kept a Pinellas County home and area code during four years he spent with Toronto and Atlanta (2006-2010). And he re-signed with Tampa Bay in July 2010 (two years, $7.7 million), leaving offers for more money and years from other teams on the table.
But with the Lightning facing an uphill climb to the playoffs, still six points out of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference, Yzerman traded veteran center Dominic Moore, and eventually Kubina, collecting three combined draft picks.
"I always thought there was still hope to make the playoffs," Kubina said. "It's a great group and we proved it last year, and it's pretty much the same team. This team is still fighting for the playoffs and now they're only six points out and have a great shot at it, with one game in hand. So I was a little disappointed that Steve lost the patience and the hope for that."
Kubina acknowledged it was tough the past few days to be away, not even watching Saturday night's win over the Capitals. He said he's spoken with almost all of his teammates, who wished him well, and said the organization is in good hands with owner Jeff Vinik. "You don't see owners like that much," he said. "He's unbelievable."
That being said, Kubina put to rest any thoughts of a potential third stint with Tampa Bay.
"I think it happens once," Kubina said. "And, to be honest, I don't think so."
- JOE SMITH