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Tampa Bay Lightning veterans face possible trade as deadline nears

Gary Roberts, left, hopes to land with a playoff contender. Mark Recchi, right, says players can acclimate quickly to a new team.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Gary Roberts, left, hopes to land with a playoff contender. Mark Recchi, right, says players can acclimate quickly to a new team.

It may be time to move again.

Wings Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts are the likeliest Lightning players to be traded by Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline. For Recchi, it would mean a sixth team since 2003-04; for Roberts, a fifth.

But it also could mean one last run at a Stanley Cup title.

"I want to be respectful to this organization," Roberts said. "But for me to have an opportunity one more time to play in the playoffs before I retire, I would be excited."

This is what happens at the trade deadline. Teams such as Tampa Bay that are out of the postseason deal with playoff-bound teams wanting to add grit, leadership or an offensive spark.

The return: building blocks. For the Lightning, that means draft choices first, prospects second as it tries to create organizational depth.

Consider, Tampa Bay has just seven drafted players on its roster: goalie Karri Ramo, forwards Vinny Lecavalier, Ryan Craig, Evgeny Artyukhin and Steven Stamkos, and defensemen Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger.

The Oilers, who beat Tampa Bay last week, have 13.

The Lightning, 28th in the league, will have a desirable draft position and has a first-round pick, two seconds, two fourths, a sixth from the Predators that will turn into a fifth if Nick Tarnasky plays 55 games, and a seventh.

General manager Brian Lawton wants more.

"This is an opportunity to add to that in what is a very deep draft," he said.

Generally, sellers trade potential unrestricted free agents so they are not lost for nothing. Recchi, Roberts, defenseman Marek Malik and left wing Matt Pettinger are in that category, but it is obvious where the interest lies.

Recchi, 41, is third on the team with 45 points and second with 32 assists. He also has Stanley Cup wins in 2006 with the Hurricanes and 1991 with the Penguins. Roberts, 42, can still affect a game with grit and determination and has a Cup win in 1989 with the Flames.

So, been there, done that.

"You've just got to be prepared to be a small piece of the puzzle," Roberts said. "It wouldn't be easy to end up playing seven minutes a night. But I still would relish the opportunity to be a small piece of the puzzle and fill whatever role that team would need for me to fill."

Recchi, acquired by Carolina at the deadline from Pittsburgh, said players acclimate quickly.

"I felt a real part of it," said Recchi, who had seven goals and 16 points in 25 postseason games for the 'Canes. "Once you get through that first playoff round, you're there with the guys. They know you're there to battle for them regardless of whether you're there for 20 games or the whole playoff run."

Jeff Halpern, acquired last season in the Stars' deadline deal for Brad Richards, said most difficult is the nervousness as the deadline approaches.

"I have no idea what's going to happen," said the center, signed for next season but coveted as a deadline acquisition for his leadership and commitment to defense. "It's always a weird feeling not knowing who is going to be traded."

"Not anxious at all," Recchi said. "I came here to help this team. Expectations were high, and I wanted to be part of that. But I play to win championships. If I get moved and get an opportunity to win, so be it."

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

Tampa Bay Lightning veterans face possible trade as deadline nears 03/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 3, 2009 8:20am]
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