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Tampa Bay Lightning general manager and owner must be active at trade deadline

Not to put any pressure on Lightning GM Brian Lawton or prospective new owner Jeff Vinik, but there would be great value in adding a piece or two to the locker room before the March 3 trade deadline; not only to bolster the roster, but to send a message to players, coaches and fans:

"We're serious about turning this thing around."

For much of last season and most of this one, reports of dire financial circumstances were front and center.

And while the team did spend money last offseason on veteran defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Matt Walker, the lineup was filled out by players such as goalie Antero Niittymaki, left wing Alex Tanguay, defenseman Kurtis Foster and left wing Stephane Veilleux, who were willing to play on relatively cheap one-year deals to rebuild their longer-term value.

But the team's finances have stabilized with the sale to Vinik, who already is writing payroll checks while waiting for the sale to close and to get NHL approval for the transfer of ownership.

Lawton has said Vinik told him adding payroll would be okay if the right deal came along. In response, Lawton said he wants to be "aggressive" before the deadline.

Fans certainly hope so, but don't think coaches and players aren't watching closely as well. Bringing in one or more players who can help push the team into the playoffs for the first time in three years will go a long way to convincing skeptics inside and outside the locker room that Vinik has his eye on the ball and not only the bottom line.

So far, Vinik has said the right things, specifically, "I'm going to put the resources forth that are necessary to make this a successful franchise."

But just throwing money at the problem isn't good enough as we found out from the previous ownership's first season. Lawton has to be smart to bring in players who fit the profile coach Rick Tocchet wants (more gritty guys such as Steve Downie wouldn't be bad) and fit well into what is a pretty tight locker room.

Make the right deals, or at least try. It's a message worth sending.

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

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager and owner must be active at trade deadline 02/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 13, 2010 6:21pm]
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