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Tampa Bay Lightning has trade bait, but it's most likely not named St. Louis, Lecavalier or Stamkos

Okay, let's start with this: The chances the Lightning trades Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos or Vinny Lecavalier by the March 4 trade deadline are extremely remote, despite what the rumor mill is saying.

St. Louis proved, with his production and locker room leadership, he is a key part of the team. Stamkos, with a workout program making him bigger and stronger, and a video program making him smarter about the game, is showing he could be a star. Lecavalier is simply the face of the franchise.

For a team likely without the playoffs as a marketing hook and hoping to sell season tickets when renewals go out in March, keeping the high-profile assets almost is a no-brainer.

Ownership also wants to bring a sense of stability to a franchise that has used a league-high 43 players.

But Tampa Bay is considered a distressed property around the league, and that is where playoff teams look to add depth, toughness or leadership to aid a potential run at the Cup.

Who are the most likely targets? Best guesses are forwards Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts and defenseman Marek Malik.

All are potential unrestricted free agents, so Tampa Bay could lose them for nothing. They also have proven value.

Recchi, 41, especially could bring a nice return. The future Hall of Famer entered Saturday with 12 goals and was third on the team with 37 points and 25 assists.

Roberts, 42, who also could be headed to the hall, has been rejuvenated since returning from an elbow injury that cost him 33 games. Malik, 33, though slow-footed and nursing a right ankle injury, is a veteran presence and patient with the puck.

Navigating the trade deadline also demands patience. There are tons of Internet rumors, and they will mount as the deadline approaches. It is even fun to debate the merits and demerits of what gets tossed around.

Evaluating whether St. Louis, 34 in June, is more valuable with Tampa Bay or as bait for the assets he could bring in a trade is a real conversation starter.

The Lightning will tell you there is nothing to talk about.

Tampa Bay Lightning has trade bait, but it's most likely not named St. Louis, Lecavalier or Stamkos 02/14/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 15, 2009 7:22am]
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