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What does Gratton signing mean?



Gratton First, let's try and understand what happened that put Chris Gratton from a non-issue as far as the Lightning was concerned to a guy the team was willing to pay $1.25-million to keep.

Gratton, 33, had a tough 2007-08. His third stint with the team was marred by a preseason eye injury and then a hip problem that was bad enough that in February he had surgery to repair a torn labrum and was shut down for the rest of the season. Played just 60 games.

Then, we were told he was part of a plan in which he would center a line with Nick Tarnasky and Evgeny Artyukhin. Then he no longer was part of the plan. Then, over the past week or two, things changed.

Gratton said he wanted his family to stay in the Tampa Bay area. He had offers from other teams but asked his agent to check back with Tampa Bay just to make sure nothing could be worked out. Reading between the broad lines, seems to me, Gratton, an unrestricted free agent, might have been asking for too much money in his initial dealings gave the Lightning, but finally agreed to a hometown discount to stay with the team and, as he said, keep his family in an area he loves. Did he really have more lucrative offers from other teams? We'll probably never know.

Regardless, Gratton said Friday, "I just thought it was a better fit for my family. I didn't want to move again."

He said his eye still has "minor issues" but nothing that will stop him from playing, and the hip is as good as new.

As far as the team, Gratton's signing gives Tampa Bay 17 forwards, including  No. 1 draft pick Steve Stamkos, who is not yet signed (though that is a formality). As we have stressed before, that means trades are coming.

Who is on the block? Jussi Jokinen, Michel Ouellet, Jason Ward, and, with Gratton's signing, perhaps Ryan Craig.

What does the Lightning want? A steady, veteran defenseman, draft choices and prospects to help bolster AHL Norfolk.

Who might be on the way in? The name Darryl Sydor is still floating around, though I suspect if that is true, the Lightning would much rather claim him off recall waivers and only be responsible for half his $2.5-million salary. At 36, though, he might still have something left after playing 74 games last season for the Penguins with a goal and 12 assists.

Personally, if you're talking about the Penguins and a trade, I like Rob Scuderi better. He's 29, averaged 18:44 minutes last season, was plus-3, has a reasonable $725,000 salary and is unrestricted after next season.

Who really knows what will happen? All we know is with 17 forwards, the Lightning has a lot of chips with which to play.

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


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