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Q&A | Prospective Lightning sale

Next Lightning regime needs to pick a coach first

It appears almost certain now that John Tortorella is on his way out as coach of the Lightning and Barry Melrose is on his way in.

Neither Oren Koules nor fellow investor Len Barrie would comment Thursday after what they said was a successful meeting with the NHL's executive committee. But nobody (except Melrose) is denying it, either.

And with the sale of the team likely to be approved at the league's June 18 Board of Governors meeting, moving forward on the most pressing issue for the prospective owners would seem prudent.

Moving forward on all fronts, from setting budgets to building a management team, is a good idea, but especially in regards to Tortorella. The coach has said he wants to return for his contract's final year. But rumors about Melrose, the ESPN analyst and ex-Kings coach, are getting louder.

It is unfair to the players and the coach to keep them in limbo. And if he is going to be fired, Tortorella should be given as much time as possible to search for a new job.

Here's some informed speculation about where Koules and Barrie go from here on Tortorella and other issues.

How fast will the coaching situation be addressed?

Perhaps next week. Tortorella seemed to back himself into a corner by first telling general manager Jay Feaster it might be time for him to step down. There also was tension between Tortorella and Feaster over how Tortorella handled the benchings of Andre Roy and Shane O'Brien. Tortorella will have his pick of jobs if he is fired; the Senators, Maple Leafs and Sharks have been mentioned most.

What about management?

Much depends on how OK Hockey divides responsibilities. How much will Koules be involved in hockey operations, not to mention the St. Pete Times Forum? What will Barrie's job be? Bet that Feaster, who is somewhat shielded with three years left on his deal, and team president Ron Campbell will be watching.

Is the payroll set?

The salary cap is expected to be about $55-million, and Tampa Bay likely won't come close to it. But with plans to draft Steven Stamkos No. 1 overall ($875,000 a season for three years) and a serious need for a couple of scoring forwards, the payroll shouldn't dip from last season's approximate $45-million.

Will Marc Denis be bought out?

Buyouts happen June 15-30. The goalie will be paid two-thirds of next season's $3-million salary. For cap purposes, the $2-million will be spread over two seasons, double the years left on his contract.

How about Vinny Lecavalier?

The superstar center has one year left on his contract. It is believed Koules wants to sign him to a long-term deal.

Any other odds and ends?

Norfolk GM Claude Loiselle needs a contract, and the Admirals need a coach.

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

Next Lightning regime needs to pick a coach first 05/30/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2008 3:05pm]
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