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Lightning intends to keep Lecavalier suited up

The Lightning and Vinny Lecavalier are working toward a nine-year, $77-million contract extension. But the team's plans for the superstar center extend even further into the future.

Owner Oren Koules on Thursday said he sees Lecavalier working as a team executive after he retires.

"We absolutely do," Koules said. "We've already talked to Vinny about it. When we talked, we talked about lifestyle, about how long he wants to live here. He wants to retire here when he's done, and he wants to be part of this.

"We look at Stevie Y as the exact model of what we want to do with Vinny."

Koules was speaking of Steve Yzerman, who after 22 seasons with the Red Wings moved immediately into a vice president position working with the senior vice president, Jim Devellano, and general manager Ken Holland.

"I see him as a decision-maker," Koules said of Lecavalier. "We're doing things by committee. I think he'd be just another great voice in the committee."

Lecavalier, 28, already is the face of the franchise.

Drafted No. 1 overall in 1998, he holds team records of 710 games, 602 points, 273 goals and 41 winners.

He has one year left on a four-year, $27.4-million deal. The extension, when finalized and signed, will bind him to Tampa Bay through 2018.

"I love history. I love continuity of an organization," coach Barry Melrose said. "Hopefully, someday, they'll be looking up in the stands at a Tampa Bay Lightning game in the playoffs, and there will be an older, chunkier Vinny Lecavalier, sitting up there as a member of the Lightning."

RUMOR MILL: Koules and Melrose shot down a rumor that defenseman Dan Boyle could be trade bait to free up cap space. "Danny Boyle is the guy I'm counting on to play 25 minutes a night," Melrose said. Asked about the rumor, Koules said, "I'll answer anything that's important."

Melrose place: It was understandable Melrose didn't get the applause the hundreds-strong throng of season-ticket holders unleashed for the first time on No. 1 draft pick Steve Stamkos. But overshadowed by — albeit popular — radio play-by-play announcer Dave Mishkin?

Still, Melrose, in his first interaction with fans since his long-rumored hire as coach was made official Tuesday, said all the right things to impress his somewhat skeptical new constituency at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. He chatted up autograph-seekers and took the first steps in proving he can still lead a team after spending the last 12 years as an ESPN analyst and in blog-driven resentment over a perceived slight of the Lightning during its 2004 defeat of Calgary to win the Stanley Cup.

For now, there's a willingness among fans to believe he can turn around a team that finished with the NHL's worst record last season.

"I haven't liked Barry Melrose for like 12 years," said Temple Terrace resident Michele Blevins, who stood beside the stage for a close look at the coach and top pick. "Everybody's talking about 2004, but in 2004 I already didn't like him. He said something, and I honestly can't remember what it was, but he seems to know what he's talking about. If he can take what he says and put it on the ice, I'll take back everything bad I've ever said about him."

Lightning intends to keep Lecavalier suited up 06/26/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 28, 2008 11:02am]
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