General manager Brian Lawton's most forceful moment as he tried to calm the churning Vinny Lecavalier trade rumors was when he declared, "He's not being traded today. He is not being traded tomorrow. He is not being traded any time soon."
Of course, that raises the question: How soon is soon? There are no easy fixes for the factors helping fuel the rumors.
Because of the bad economy and attendance down about 2,000 a game, the team is fighting tough times; you don't restructure your financing agreement with the previous owner if everything is okay.
The team could still use top-shelf defensemen, something a Lecavalier deal would bring. And the captain's 11-year, $85 million contract extension, which pays $10 million next season, is imposing considering revenues are down and the salary cap could decrease.
Even so, two scenarios say Lecavalier sticks through the season: Tampa Bay keeps winning or it goes back to losing.
Think about it. If the team creeps into playoff contention before the March 4 trade deadline, the strategy should be to tweak a roster that coach Rick Tocchet and staff have worked so hard to bring together.
And if the Lightning falls? Well, season-ticket renewals start going out in March. How hard would it be to sell economically stressed fans on a losing team without Lecavalier?
What happens over the summer? Who knows? Lots of trades occur around the June draft, and Lecavalier's no-movement clause doesn't kick in until July 1.
The Lightning would have you believe the call is Lecavalier's, that he would be traded only if he no longer wanted to play in Tampa. Seems he already voted by signing an 11-year contract extension.
That aside, does it make sense for any team to forfeit the power to trade simply because a player prefers to stay?
As Lecavalier on Friday told reporters in Montreal who asked if he will end the season in Tampa: "I think I will, but in the end, it's not up to me to answer a question like that because it's a bit out of my control."