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Is coaching change looming for Lightning?

Will John Tortorella be the Lightning's coach next season? Barry Melrose? Someone else?

With the sale of team likely to be approved at the league's June 18 board of governors meeting, the question is the most pressing for the incoming owners.

The coach has said he wants to return for the final year of his contract, but so-far undenied rumors say he will be fired in favor of Melrose, the ESPN analyst and former Kings coach.

Neither Oren Koules nor fellow OK Hockey investor Len Barrie got into specifics Thursday after what they said was a successful meeting with the league's executive committee. Moving sooner rather than later on all fronts — from setting budgets to building a management team — would seem prudent, but especially with Tortorella.

It is unfair to the players and the coach to continue in limbo. And Tortorella, if he is going to be fired, should be given as much time as possible to search for a new job.

How fast will the coaching situation be addressed?

Perhaps as soon as next week. Tortorella seemed to back himself into a corner by originally telling general manager Jay Feaster it might be time for him to step down. There also was tension between Tortorella and Feaster over how Tortorella handled the benchings of Andre Roy and Shane O'Brien. Tortorella will have his pick of jobs if he is fired; the Senators, Maple Leafs and Sharks have been mentioned most.

What about management?

Much depends on how OK Hockey divides responsibilities. How much will Koules be involved in running hockey operations, not to mention the arena? What will Barrie's job be? You can bet Feaster, who is somewhat shielded with three years left on his contract, and team president Ron Campbell will be watching.

Is the payroll set?

The salary cap is expected to be about $55-million and Tampa Bay likely won't come close. But with plans to draft Steven Stamkos No. 1 overall ($875,000 a season for three years) and a serious need for a couple of scoring forwards, the payroll shouldn't dip from last season's approximate $45-million.

Will Marc Denis be bought out?

Buyouts happen June 15-30. The goalie will be paid two-thirds next season's $3-million salary. For cap purposes, the $2-million will be spread over two seasons, double the years left on his contract.

How about Vinny Lecavalier?

The superstar center has one year left on his contract. It is believed Koules wants to sign him to a long-term deal.

Any other odds and ends?

Norfolk GM Claude Loiselle needs a contract, and the Admirals need a coach.

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

Is coaching change looming for Lightning? 05/30/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2008 2:34pm]
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