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Predictions of dire Tampa Bay Lightning payroll straits unfulfilled

There was speculation the Lightning would go on austerity this season.

The rumor was Vinny Lecavalier and his $10 million salary would be traded and payroll would be in the low $40 million range.

But Tampa Bay entered Saturday's opener with an invigorated Lecavalier and a payroll of about $50 million. The payroll includes a combined $2.17 million in buyout money to Marc Denis and Vinny Pros­pal, and $2 million combined being paid to Ryan Craig, Adam Hall and Brandon Bochenski, each in the minors with a guaranteed NHL contract.

Some perspective: The Lightning's $51.8 million cap hit is about $5 million below the limit and 25th in the league, the Web site nhlnumbers.com says. And the team probably will reduce payroll a bit by trading one of nine defensemen on its roster.

But the point is — and it should be noted given the challenge of selling tickets and sponsorships after two terrible seasons and in a bad economy — things weren't blown up.

General manager Brian Lawton seems to have made good choices finding potential one-year bargains in forwards Alex Tanguay and Stephane Veilleux, goaltender Antero Niittymaki and defenseman Kurtis Foster.

And co-owner Oren Koules apparently secured an extra $1 million in league revenue sharing, bringing the total to $15 million, which has done much in the short term to ease the financial pressure on the organization.

Koules declined to comment on his dealings with the league but said, "As an ownership group, we're doing everything to get Brian Lawton as many bullets as we can to start the season."

Will the Lightning ever spend with Detroit and Philadelphia? Probably not. And expect payroll to stay in the bottom half of the league to preserve next year's revenue sharing.

But it's a long way from what the rumors predicted.

Predictions of dire Tampa Bay Lightning payroll straits unfulfilled 10/03/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2009 10:17am]
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