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Tampa Bay Lightning, agent confident that Benoit Pouliot will get new deal

There is a certain risk in not extending a qualifying offer to Benoit Pouliot. If the Lightning's newly acquired left wing does not sign a contract by Sunday, he becomes an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team.

But Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman and Pouliot's agent Kent Hughes said they are confident a deal will be reached.

"Couldn't think of a better landing spot than Tampa," Hughes said.

Qualifying offers — 10 percent bumps for players making up to $660,000 the previous season; five percent for those between $660,000 and $1 million — were due Monday to pending restricted free agents so teams can retain negotiating rights.

Tampa Bay made offers to defensemen Brendan Mikkelson ($757,969), Brian Lee ($971,250), Keith Aulie ($577,500) and Evan Oberg ($826,875), and goaltender Jaroslav Janus ($660,000).

Not qualified were Pouliot and defenseman Sebastien Piche.

In Pouliot's case, the move was strategic as withholding the offer prevents him from invoking his arbitration rights. In other words, Tampa Bay believes if Pouliot, 25, who had 16 goals, 32 points and was plus-18 last season for Boston, went to arbitration, he might get more than the Lightning wants to pay.

Tampa Bay wants Pouliot, who made $1.1 million last season and was acquired for minor-leaguer Michel Ouellet and a fifth-round draft choice, to compete for a top-six position.

"I'm confident we'll reach a deal," Yzerman said. "I had an opportunity to talk with Kent Hughes about it and I'm confident we'll have him signed prior to July 1."

MINOR MOVE: The Lightning renewed its affiliation deal with ECHL Florida. Tampa Bay is a secondary tenant as the Estero-based team is the primary affiliate of the Hurricanes.

AROUND THE LEAGUE: Union executive director Donald Fehr said negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement will begin "very quickly" — perhaps this week — and didn't rule out talks stretching into the season. … Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and the Jets agreed to a $19.5 million, five-year deal. … Devils defenseman Mark Fayne will be out up to four months after surgery on his left wrist.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Lightning, agent confident that Benoit Pouliot will get new deal 06/25/12 [Last modified: Monday, June 25, 2012 9:21pm]

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