Rangers GM Glen Sather told the New York Post he had a handshake deal last season with then-Lightning co-owner Len Barrie to trade for Steven Stamkos but the deal was killed by co-owner Oren Koules.
When told of the story, Barrie wrote in a text message: "Not a chance. Sather asked, and I laughed."
Still, Sather offered lots of details such as he began working on the deal when the Lightning and Rangers were in the Czech Republic to open the 2008-09 season.
By Thanksgiving 2008, Sather told the Post, Barrie wanted two or three players from a wish list that included defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi, RW Ryan Callahan, C Brandon Dubinsky and Evgeny Grachev, a center currently in the AHL.
Sather said he and Barrie "shook hands on it."
Stamkos, drafted No. 1 overall in 2008, was not the player he is now, of course. He had just two goals and seven points and was several months away from the start of his transformation.
Since Feb. 17, 2009, Stamkos' 62 goals lead the league. His 46 this season are tied for second with Washington's Alex Ovechkin and one behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.
Sather told the Post the deal was killed by Koules and GM Brian Lawton also voted no.
Koules declined comment. Lawton, without referencing the story, wrote in a text message: "I have always believed in Steven, even when he had a slow start. I have never, ever, even remotely considered trading Steven."
MORE TROUBLE FOR BARRIE: According to the Vancouver Sun, Barrie has been removed as CEO of Bear Mountain Master Partnership, which developed Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, British Columbia.
The story, based on court documents, said Bear Mountain is in default on some of its loans and owes lenders more than $300 million.
CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT: The Rangers and Lightning have something in common: a fluctuating level of play that can be maddening.
"To me, consistency marks a good team and a good hockey player," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "Anybody can bring it one out of every five games. Can you bring it four out of five? That's the key. It's been a struggle for us."
Consider the Lightning in its past three games lost to the Blue Jackets, beat the Penguins and was crushed by the Rangers.
New York's playoff chances have been hurt by a 16-17-6 home record.
"I don't think we'd be in this spot if we took care of some business back in our building," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I'm not sure it's mental focus. If I knew exactly where to put the pin on it, it'd be cured. That's why I say it's all facets."
STATS: Stamkos is seventh in the league with 88 points and has a league-best 21 power-play goals. … LW Marty St. Louis is tied for fifth (with former teammate Brad Richards) at 90 points and has a league-best 28 power-play assists. … RW Steve Downie has a league-best 19.8 shooting percentage (22 goals on 111 shots). … LW Alex Tanguay has zero goals in 21 games and one assist in his past 13.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.