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Hockey world buzzes about Boyle trade talk

Dan Boyle cannot get away from the rumors.

Even if the Lightning defenseman stayed off the Internet, stopped reading the papers and talking to his buddies, George Bazos would pass them along.

"That's my job," Boyle's agent said.

To keep his client informed.

Boyle's ears surely are burning with speculation in the media and around the league that he could be traded to help free cap space for a team whose 27 NHL contracts, including one to be signed by No. 1 draft pick Steve Stamkos, put it over the $56.7-million limit.

"It is," HDNet hockey analyst John Vanbiesbrouck said, "a striking consideration."

Because Boyle is one of the game's best puck-moving defensemen, characterized by former Lightning coach John Tortorella as the key to the team's attack.

It is why Hall of Famer and Panthers analyst Denis Potvin said of the unconfirmed gossip, "Until something happens, I won't believe it. I just don't see where this will be a smart move."

The talk could be moot.

Boyle, who turns 32 on July 12 and has a six-year, $40-million contract that pays $6.667-million annually, has a no-trade clause Bazos said he is not inclined to waive. Even that sparked conversation.

Boyle is from Ottawa, which lost defenseman Wade Redden to free agency. Perhaps, the speculators say, Boyle would agree to go home.

The Ottawa Sun stirred the pot by reporting Tampa Bay might be interested in defenseman Andrej Meszaros, 22, a restricted free agent who last season made $984,000 and had nine goals and 36 points in 82 games, and 24-goal scorer Antoine Vermette.

"I'll tell you what," said Nick Kypreos, an analyst for Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. "They would go crazy for Dan Boyle in Ottawa."

Whoa, said Bazos, who explained he got a call Tuesday from "Lightning management" that he said indicated, "It's not their intention to move Dan. They're going to try to work out whatever they need to work out in other ways."

The issue is how to get payroll, as owner Oren Koules has said, to the league midpoint, about $48-million. That almost certainly involves trades; not necessarily for bodies, but to replenish draft choices used the past weeks to help transform the roster.

Koules on Wednesday declined comment about plans for any players and said of Boyle, "We think he's the best puck-moving defenseman in the league."

Which brings us back to why even the possibility of a trade is such a big deal.

"It's clear the secret to success in the league is to have guys who can move the puck around the back end and make some plays," CBC analyst and former Oilers assistant Craig Simpson said.

Recall what happened last season when Boyle sat with injuries and Tampa Bay changed its breakouts because no other defenseman could consistently handle the job.

"So you better make sure what you're getting in return is exactly what you need for the hockey club," former Lightning coach Terry Crisp said of a trade.

"If I'm moving Dan Boyle, I want instant return."

Bazos said his client, who declined comment, is taking the chatter in stride.

Besides, Bazos said, "He's staying put. You can't replace Dan. … When rational people sit down and take a look at it and say, realistically, if they want to move Dan, how are they making the team better, they can't do it."

Meantime, Bazos heeds the advice he said was given him by Lightning management: "Don't believe everything you read."

CONTRACTS SIGNED: Center Ryan Craig, who played just seven games last season because of injuries, signed a two-year, $1.575-million deal that pays $775,000 next season and $800,000 in 2009-10. In 72 games in 2006-07, he had 14 goals and 13 assists. … Defenseman Janne Niskala, acquired Monday from the Flyers, signed a one-year deal worth $600,000.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Hockey world buzzes about Boyle trade talk 07/02/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2008 1:43pm]
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