TAMPA — Veteran defenseman Pavel Kubina packed up his Lightning locker Sunday morning, even collecting the nameplate as a keepsake.
"It's hard to leave," Kubina said. "This team is always going to belong to my heart."
Kubina, 34, traded to the Flyers on Saturday for a second- and fourth-round pick as well as a prospect, was emotional in talking about how much he loved the area, the fans and his teammates, whom he called "friends for life."
Drafted by Lightning founder Phil Esposito in 1996, Kubina grew up as a player while spending parts of 10 seasons over two stints, including winning a Stanley Cup in 2003-04.
That's why the past three days have been so tough; since general manager Steve Yzerman asked him for five teams he'd be willing to get dealt to, then sent Kubina home to wait. "It's part of the business," he said. "And it's not fun sometimes."
Kubina, who had a partial no-trade clause, never submitted his list. When Yzerman told him the Flyers offered a great deal, Kubina believed it was the "right thing to do."
"It's another chance for me to go and play for a great team and for a Stanley Cup contender," he said.
Even with the Lightning six points out of the playoffs, Kubina said he believes the team has a great shot, which is why he was "disappointed that Steve lost the patience and the hope for that."
Kubina said he plans to keep his Pinellas County home like he did during four seasons (2006-10) with Toronto and Atlanta. He re-signed with Tampa Bay in July 2010 (two years, $7.7 million), leaving offers for more money and years on the table.
Kubina said the organization is in good hands with owner Jeff Vinik: "He's unbelievable."
That being said, Kubina put to rest any thoughts of another reunion with Tampa Bay.
"I think it happens once," he said.
"And to be honest, I don't think so."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.