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Tampa Bay Lightning open to bringing back goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith

TAMPA — Let's start with this:

"Without being specific," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said, "we will increase our payroll."

Now let's go to this:

When it comes to goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith, Yzerman said, "I'd like to explore the opportunity of bringing them both back."

The declarations Monday were the most intriguing from a day when players cleaned out their lockers at the St. Pete Times Forum.

It was also notable that center Steven Stamkos said he sees no impediment to a new deal, though no one really expects otherwise.

Surely there were not many who during the season expected a Roloson/Smith redux.

Roloson, sure, for stabilizing a goaltending black hole after his acquisition Jan. 1 from the Islanders. Smith, though, said he believed he might have been out of the league for good after his demotion to AHL Norfolk.

But Smith returned and in 10 games since Dec. 15 went 6-2-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. And Norfolk's Cedrick Desjardins, expected to be Tampa Bay's 2011-12 backup, had surgery on his right shoulder to repair what is believed a torn labrum and will be sidelined until October.

Still, Smith earned his shot.

"He handled it as well as anybody handled a situation like that," Yzerman said. "It speaks to his maturity and character. I believe he's a better goalie after going through it."

"I'm totally open to the discussion," said Smith, a potential unrestricted free agent who will have to take a pay cut from the $2.4 million he made last season. "My wife and myself love Tampa, and I love playing here."

So does Roloson, a free agent who will be 42 next season but said "physically, I feel great."

"I'd love to come back," he added. "The organization, from top to bottom, the ownership, coaching staff, players, it's great, so if there's an opportunity to come back, I'd love to."

"I'm sure if you asked the majority of players, they're all going to say they'd love to stay," coach Guy Boucher said. "The reality is there is an economic side. Every player is looking out for their team but are also looking out for their families."

So as Yzerman tries to sign Stamkos, defenseman Eric Brewer and forwards Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell and, perhaps, Simon Gagne while trying to add appropriate free agents, the extra payroll money from owner Jeff Vinik will be welcome.

"It's great," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "They want to make this team better and want to win and are committed. You can tell Steve and Mr. Vinik how passionate they are about this team, and that's going to make our team go to the next level."

How much Tampa Bay goes over last season's $55 million cap hit remains to be seen.

The league salary cap is expected to rise as high as $63.5 million from $59.4 million, and the team has $38.37 million in actual salary committed to 11 players and buyouts of Vinny Prospal and Todd Fedoruk.

"You've got to figure out how to spend your dollars," Yzerman said. "But a team that got to Game 7 of the (East final) is a good team. We have to figure out how to get better. It's going to be a challenge just to stay the same."

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

Tampa Bay Lightning open to bringing back goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith 05/30/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2011 10:27pm]
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