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Lecavalier eager to quell rumors of testing unrestricted free agency

Welcome to the team: Lightning No. 1 pick Steve Stamkos, right, receives a big welcome during the draft in Ottawa. 
OK Hockey’s Oren Koules, center, made his first appearance as presumptive owner and announced the selection of Stamkos.

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Welcome to the team: Lightning No. 1 pick Steve Stamkos, right, receives a big welcome during the draft in Ottawa. OK Hockey’s Oren Koules, center, made his first appearance as presumptive owner and announced the selection of Stamkos.

OTTAWA — Vinny Lecavalier said he hopes his ongoing, and apparently progressing, negotiations with the Lightning on a long-term contract extension finally stop the persistent rumors he wants to test unrestricted free agency.

"I always said I wanted to stay in Tampa," the All-Star center said Friday. "It's very exciting. Nothing is done yet, but I can't wait to see it keep making progress."

The deal would give Lecavalier security and be a publicity boost for OK Hockey, the presumptive owner. And with last season's signing of defenseman Dan Boyle to a six-year deal, it would go a long way to calming fans who are nervous about the team's direction.

"I hope it helps," Lecavalier said. "With any new ownership, you never know what's going to happen. But they came out and they said they wanted to get something done. It feels good."

Lecavalier, 28, declined to give specifics about the negotiations or the basic parameters of the deal, which agent Kent Hughes has said are done.

"I'm confident," Lecavalier said. "Things are going well."

Acting like an owner: OK Hockey's primary investors, Oren Koules and Len Barrie, made their first public appearances as presumptive owners. Koules announced the selection of Steve Stamkos at the draft. Barrie was on stage with Jay Feaster, reinforcing the general manager will remain with the team.

New coach: Koules and Barrie met with commissioner Gary Bettman. No details, but it is thought the introduction of Barry Melrose as coach will be next week.

Seen Stamkos? Asked about the seenstamkos.com Web site, Feaster dismissed that it puts too much pressure on a rookie.

"People overthink what the Web site is," he said. "We don't play in a hockey-mad market. We're still behind football. If it were a Buccaneer player, he could have played at Podunk State in Division V and everyone would know him. We wouldn't have to do an awareness campaign.

"This was never about let's heap the burden of franchise on the next Michael Jordan of hockey. All this was about was an awareness campaign. … All it was meant to be was a fun thing. Steve himself had fun with it. But there are some people, man, in the blogs and the blogosphere who really overthought this thing."

Odds and ends: Stamkos will wear No. 91 and said he will continue to wear a visor. … Former NHL player Brian Lawton said his lunch with Koules and friend Barrie, that quickly started rumors, was about "hockey" — not a coaching job.

Lecavalier eager to quell rumors of testing unrestricted free agency 06/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2008 11:17am]
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