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Lawton expects Lecavalier to be with Lightning next season

MONTREAL — If Canadiens fans were disappointed Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier was not traded to Montreal during the draft, wait till they hear this.

Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton said publicly for the first time Saturday that he believes Lecavalier, the target of trade rumors since January, will be with the Lightning next season.

"I can say he's with us and I expect him to be with us," Lawton said. "There is nothing going on that would make me suggest he would not be with us next season."

He concluded with, "You know what? No more comments from me about Vinny. I'm leaving it alone."

Though Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, said he had not spoken to Lawton, the statement seemed to provide the clarity for which he has asked.

"It takes a lot of pressure off in terms of the cloud of uncertainty that has been around Vinny," Hughes said. "Now he can focus on the Tampa Bay Lightning and restoring them to the quality team they should be in the league."

Lecavalier's new 11-year, $85 million contract that includes a no-move clause takes effect Wednesday.

The contract's heft and proximity to enactment caused speculation Lecavalier, 29, would be moved this weekend. But Lawton, who has always maintained he was not shopping the four-time all-star center, said he fielded no calls about him during the draft.

"Brian told us if they were going to move him, they would call," Hughes said. "They never called, and they're not moving him."

MORE TRADE TALK: Lawton said he spoke to several teams about Lightning players.

"But nothing materialized. It's cautious out there," he said, citing the stagnant salary cap. "It started off that way and never changed."

Of Saturday's 18 trades, only seven involved players.

ONE TRADE MADE: Tampa Bay sent a 2010 fifth-round pick to the Predators for the 148th overall selection it used on G Michael Zador. Fourteen picks later, it chose G Jaroslav Janus.

"I personally love having depth in goal," said player personnel director Jim Hammett, who ran the draft.

It was an interesting one-two punch, considering Tampa Bay, with a lack of organizational depth on the blue line, took only one other defenseman after No. 2 pick Victor Hedman.

"It's how the draft fell," Hammett said. "At one point on our list, there was too sharp a dropoff of the next group of available D men. We felt strongly about the guys we took."

That includes D Kirill Gotovets, 18, a rising senior at Minnesota's Shattuck-St. Mary's High, who had six goals, 29 points and 66 penalty minutes in 50 games and, Hammett said, has a four-year scholarship waiting at Cornell.

It is the second straight year Tampa Bay took a player from St. Mary's, the school attended by the son of owner Oren Koules.

"That had nothing to do with it, I promise you," Hammett said of the affiliation. "He fits the bill with what we thought we needed at the end of the draft, which was another defenseman and a right-handed shot."

Gotovets, 183rd overall, was 108th on Tampa Bay's list but ranked 179th by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters.

ODDS AND ENDS: Hammett said the Lightning tried to acquire a second seventh-round pick through trade. … Canadian players made up 102 of 210 players drafted. The United States was second with 55.

Lawton expects Lecavalier to be with Lightning next season 06/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 9:18pm]
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