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Lightning still has needs, salary cap crunch

ON HOLD: Goalie Andrey Vasilevskiy, at prospects camp Saturday, says he likely will play out the final year of his KHL deal next season.

DANIEL WALLACE Times

ON HOLD: Goalie Andrey Vasilevskiy, at prospects camp Saturday, says he likely will play out the final year of his KHL deal next season.

BRANDON — The Lightning fortified its second line with the addition Friday of free agent center Valterri Filppula.

Now comes the hard part: addressing needs on the blue line while managing existing personnel and a salary cap crunch.

Not only does Tampa Bay have eight defensemen on one-way contracts, it is about $1.7 million under the $64.3 million salary cap with one or two spots at forward still to fill.

Just doing that could push the Lightning to the cap and force it to put defenseman Mattias Ohlund (knee) on long-term injured reserve. That would allow Tampa Bay to exceed the cap by the amount of replacement salary minus the cap space available at the time of the transaction. Ohlund's $3.6 million hit would stay on the books.

It's no surprise, then, that general manager Steve Yzerman said adding a defenseman would have to be through trade so the team could shed salary in the process.

Yzerman said he is not shopping. Even with Ohlund out and defenseman Brian Lee (knee) iffy for training camp, Mark Barberio is close to being ready to jump from AHL Syracuse.

Even so, "it's fair to say we need to be better defensively," Yzerman said. "As a team we need to be better, but our defensive core as a whole has to be better. Whether I can change it, I'm not sure. But the group we have we expect to be better."

"They'll have a training camp. They'll have time to prepare. A little bit more experience for the young guys. And our veterans, after the lockout and shortened season, hopefully the normal routine and proper preparation, they can play at a higher level as well."

NEWBIE: Jonathan Drouin, this year's No. 3 overall draft pick who signed a three-year, $2.775 million deal, made his debut Saturday at prospects camp at the Ice Sports Forum.

No nerves, the 18-year-old left wing said: "It's just practice. … Obviously, everyone is watching, the coaches and stuff, so you've got to push hard and just play the same way you've been playing."

"At 18, I wouldn't have had the poise that he has," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's focused. … Just professionalism all the way around, with a little bit of kid in him. It was fun."

ON HOLD: Goalie Andrey Vasilevskiy wants "100 percent" to play next season in North America but likely will finish the last year of his contract with Ufa of Europe's Kontinental Hockey League.

That's not a problem for his development, said Al Murray, the Lightning's director of amateur scouting, as long as Vasilevskiy, drafted 19th overall in 2012, plays with Ufa's KHL team and not its junior team, with which he played most of last season.

Vasilevskiy, 18, seems ready to make the jump. In eight KHL games last season, he was 4-1-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.

"If he stays in Russia," said defenseman Artem Sergeev, interpreting for Vasilevskiy, "he will play in the KHL."

ODDS AND ENDS: It's too soon to tell if defenseman Slater Koekkoek, drafted 10th overall in 2012 and recovering from last season's shoulder surgery, will participate in the camp's three-on-three tournament. … Practices today are at 1:15 p.m.

Vinny: I have things to prove … to Philly

Vinny Lecavalier says he feels like he has something to prove after being bought out by the Lightning, but not to Tampa Bay.

"Any time something like that happens … I guess I want to prove the Flyers right. It's not about proving anybody else wrong or the Lightning wrong," Lecavalier said in his first comments since his five-year, $22.5 million deal with Philadelphia was announced last week. The deal was finalized Saturday.

Lecavalier, 33, said he had a list of about 10 teams he was considering after the Lightning told him June 28 it was buying out the remaining seven years of his contract, which had $37 million left on it.

"Right after I talked with Philly, even before any offers or anything, they went right to the top of the list," he said. "I just liked what they were saying.

"I liked (coach Peter Laviolette's) point of view on the game. I just like their style of play. They play hard, they play well defensively, but offense is also something they can bring that's very solid, so I thought I'd fit well in that mold."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he thinks Lecavalier's wife, Caroline, played a part in the decision.

"Vinny actually came into town with his wife prior to us agreeing on a contract," Holm­gren said. "I think his wife gave him the thumbs-up on the area, liked the areas we have to live where the players are at. It just kind of went from there."

Information from Times wries was used in this report.

Lightning still has needs, salary cap crunch 07/06/13 [Last modified: Saturday, July 6, 2013 11:39pm]

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