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New Lightning defenseman Carle looks beyond growing season

When Matt Carle phoned home to Anchorage, Alaska, with the news he had been traded to the Lightning, he immediately got the welcoming committee:

Younger brother David, whom Tampa Bay drafted 203rd overall last month despite a heart ailment that likely ended his career.

"So, it was kind of funny," Matt said. "He was actually the first one to welcome me to the organization."

"That," David said, "was pretty cool."

Lightning owner Oren Koules believes so, too, but for different reasons. Koules sees Matt Carle, 23, as a budding star who can grow with the franchise, run the power play and lead the five-on-five transition.

A tall order, given what Tampa Bay gave the Sharks: Dan Boyle, one of the game's top puck-moving defensemen, and Brad Lukowich. But the Lightning believe the upside is enormous.

The Lightning also received a first-round pick in 2009 and a fourth-rounder in 2010, giving it two first-round picks next year, and two second-rounders — its own and Philadelphia's via the Vinny Prospal trade.

It got highly regarded defensive prospect Ty Wishart, the No. 16 overall pick of the 2006 draft; got rid of Lukowich, who was not in its blue-line plans; and saved a ton off the salary cap.

Boyle and Lukowich would have combined for an $8.234-million cap hit. Carle, starting a four-year, $13.75-million deal that pays $2.95-million next season, has a $3.438-million hit, a savings of $4.796-million.

Boyle will be 38 when his contract expires. Carle will be 27 and possibly on top of his game when ready to re-up.

"We have a real plan for this year, five years and 10 years," Koules said. "We're trying to build something for the future."

Much of that could hinge on Carle, the 2006 Hobey Baker Award winner as a senior at the University of Denver who had 11 goals, 42 points in 77 games for the Sharks in 2006-07 and impressed the team with his positioning and decisionmaking with the puck.

But Carle fell to two goals, 15 points in 62 games last season, was a healthy scratch in 20 games and admitted to differences with coach Ron Wilson.

"It just teaches you to be a better professional," Carle said of the situation. "You have an understanding what it takes on an everyday basis, to bring that work ethic and intensity to every practice every day."

He said it also taught him to be more open with coaches.

"Maybe it was my fault for not going to (Wilson) and seeing what he wanted to get out of me," he said.

Koules said he is not worried about Carle's downturn in production.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Two years ago he ran the No. 2 power play in the league."

And Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said on his team's Web site, "We really feel that Matt will have tremendous success in this league."

Carle said he is "excited to move on," especially to a team that drafted his brother, knowing David likely never will play.

"That spoke volumes to my family to step up like that," he said. "A first-class move. Obviously, my brother was devastated and figured that was the end of his hockey career. When Tampa Bay drafted him, it gave him a little bit of life."

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

New Lightning defenseman Carle looks beyond growing season 07/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 8:34pm]

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