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Why not Bryzgalov?

6

March

With the way goalie Mike Smith has played since his acquisition from the Stars in the Brad Richards deal, this is a moot point. But it seemed curious earlier in the season when the Ducks offered goalie Ilya Bryzgalov at a discount (something like a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick), that the Lightning didn't snatch him up. Instead Bryzgalov, who was not going to get a chance to be a No. 1 behind J.S. Giguere, was put on waivers. Even if the Lightning put in a claim, he was snatched up by the Coyotes who had, because of their position in the standings at the time, an earlier chance to pick him up.

Even Bryzgalov's agent, Don Meehan, said he was shocked the Lightning did not trade for his client.

"I know Brian did offer Ilya around the league,'' Meehan said of Ducks GM Brian Burke. "And Brian told me on one occasion he did talk with (Lightning GM) Jay Feaster. I don't know the specifics, but Brian told me that he had talked to Tampa and couldn't understand why he couldn't convince Tampa to take him, given what he'd done with the Ducks.''

Mickey Redmond, the Red Wings television analyst, said on the air earlier in the season the Lightning had a trade worked out for Bryzgalov that was shot down by ownership because of Bryzgalov's $1.362-million salary. But the scuttlebutt around the Lightning is the team never presented a trade to the ownership. If that is true, it has nothing to do with his skills. Bryzgalov is 23-16-4 this season with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.

The Lightning, though, is very careful about locker room chemistry and if the team, for whatever reason, determined through its research that Bryzgalov was not a fit, it is not a stretch to believe it would have stayed away. That's just speculation, of course, but given the team's track record in that regard, that kind of thing certainly was part of the equation.

Not that player salaries haven't been part of the equation for Tampa Bay. And, as it happens, Smith gives the team some breathing room. Smith, 25, is signed next season for $950,000. Bryzgalov, 28, signed a three-year, $12.75-million extension with the Coyotes that kicks in next season at $4-million. And Smith seems as good as advertised and his ability to handle the puck is going to be a long-term asset.

I know, everybody is sour over losing Brad Richards. But Tampa Bay has a chance, with Richards' $7.8-million salary off the books, to remake its team. The pressure is on Feaster and coach John Tortorella to take advantage and do it the right way.

More stuff from this morning: Smith starts his fifth straight game tonight against the Flyers. ... Smith, who on Tuesday stopped Pittsburgh's Peter Sykora on a penalty shot, is 2-for-2 stopping such chances. He stopped Alex Ovechkin with the Stars. Smith also is 9-for-9 in shootouts. ... Tortorella said even when defenseman Filip Kuba returns from a knee injury, Alex Picard will stay in the lineup as a top-four player and likely will be teamed with Kuba. That means either Doug Janik or Shane O'Brien, who has struggled lately, will be a healthy scratch. ... I guess this was a compliment. Torts said of Picard, "He's not afraid to make a mistake.'' ... The Lightning's 234 power-play chances are dead last in the league, 22 behind the next-to-last Bruins. ... Tampa Bay hass two power play chances in its past two games. ... GM Jay Feaster said recalling defensemen Matt Smaby and Vladimir Mihalik from AHL Norfolk is not an absolute. "We definitely want to look at them, but it's going to depend on how they play down the stretch,'' Feaster said. Still, it won't be a shock to see both of them with the Lightning.   

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

    

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