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Defenseman Hutchinson out, Heward in with Lightning

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Jamie Heward was minding his own business in Norfolk, Va., trying to decide whether to play for the Lightning's top farm team or perhaps do a little coaching.

A day later, the veteran defenseman was in Tampa Bay's locker room at O2 Arena waiting for his one-year, two-way contract to be finalized.

"It was a quick turnaround, no doubt about that," he said Thursday.

Heward, 37, who attended training camp as a tryout, was called up after Andrew Hutchinson literally played himself off the team.

Signed to a two-year, $1-million deal that pays the same whether he is in the NHL or the minors, Hutchinson was supposed to provide veteran leadership and man the point on the power play. Instead, he cleared waivers and is expected to be assigned to AHL Norfolk.

The final straw of an all-around poor camp was Tuesday's brutal effort against HC Slovan.

"For whatever reason, it's taken him a little time to get comfortable, and (he) wasn't playing his game," vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. "He was the AHL defenseman of the year last year and didn't perform that way."

Heward, in his ninth NHL season, last played in the league in 2006-07 and had six goals and 24 points with the Kings and Capitals. He played last season with St. Petersburg, Russia, and had two goals, 17 points in 53 games.

It was not clear if Heward would play in Saturday's opener against the Rangers — "That's up to the coaches," Lawton said — but for now it seems he is more of an insurance policy against injuries.

"My goal is to stay up here and help in any capacity I can," Heward said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."

DEAD MONEY: The Lightning has $2.75-million in salary cap charges for players not on its NHL roster: $500,000 for Hutchinson, $1.25-million for RW Michel Ouellet and $1-million for G Marc Denis, bought out of the final year of his contract.

ALTERNATE CAPTAINS: RW Marty St. Louis and D Andrej Meszaros will fill those jobs, coach Barry Melrose said.

Naming St. Louis was no surprise. But Meszaros is new to the team. Melrose said that was not a consideration.

"He's going to play a ton of minutes," Melrose said. "Any guy who plays as hard as he does deserves an award like that."

NO EXPANSION YET: Commissioner Gary Bettman said any discussion about NHL expansion into Europe is so distant, it is "sheer speculation."

Players association executive director Paul Kelly said this week that expansion might be done inside 10 years, though he said Thursday that "there are no plans on the table" and any plan would be done in cooperation with European leagues.

"I don't think our league wants to be reckless and do damage to the pro leagues here," Kelly said. "We don't want to come in here like a conqueror and impose our will if we're not wanted."

ODDS AND ENDS: About 10,000 attended open practices for the Lightning and Rangers. … Bettman said leaguewide season ticket sales are up about 4 percent. ... The Lightning paid for a reception for fans who made the trip from Florida. Food and drinks were available, and players signed autographs. "It's fantastic," owner Len Barrie said. "It shows you what kind of core fans we have."

Defenseman Hutchinson out, Heward in with Lightning 10/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 9:34pm]
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