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Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier can relate to Steven Stamkos' protracted contract talks

Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier doesn't claim to know all the ins and outs of what is going on in the protracted contract negotiations between the team and Steven Stamkos.

But he does know this:

"I know Stammer wants to be part of the Lightning."

Besides, he added, "We're two months from training camp, so I'm not worried at all."

If anyone has a relevant perspective on how negotiations can go, it is Lecavalier, who in 2001 did not sign a new contract coming out of his entry-level deal until the night before Tampa Bay's Oct. 5 season opener.

Lecavalier is not saying his teammate's negotiations will drag on that long, just that it is too early to be sounding the alarms that are clanging among fans and in the blogosphere.

"There are so many little things, the structure of the contract, it really is one step at a time," Lecavalier said last week by phone from his Montreal home. "It's not something you do overnight. If they're talking, things are going well. That's what people have to think about."

And they are talking.

"Still working on it," Stamkos' agent, Don Meehan, wrote in an e-mail.

Added Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman: "Both parties have bargained in good faith with the intention of reaching an agreement. We talk on a regular basis, and I'm encouraged."

There are plenty of similarities between the Stamkos and Lecavalier situations.

Both are former No. 1 overall draft picks; Lecavalier in 1998, Stamkos in 2008. Lecavalier was 21 and believed to be a future franchise player, same as Stamkos. And Lecavalier could not get together with the team on money, same as Stamkos.

But Stamkos, who it is believed was offered a five-year contract with an average salary of $7.5 million coming out of his entry-level deal, has extra layers of considerations.

His 51 goals in 2009-10 tied for the league best, and his 96 goals the past two seasons are a league high. NBC analyst and former Whalers coach Pierre McGuire called him "one of the true wonders of the league."

Then again, he had only five goals in his last 28 regular-season games.

There also is the specter of a new collective bargaining agreement that will be negotiated after next season. Will the salary cap be lower? Will player salaries take a hit? Is it better to front load or back load the money in a contract?

Then there is this: the explosion of hockey-related Internet sites and social media.

Now, any rumor, even those without credence, gets an airing. And the lack of apparent movement in Stamkos' negotiations is fertile ground for speculation he is unhappy in Tampa (he is not) or is about to be traded (he isn't).

"Everybody is speculating," Lecavalier said. "Everybody is saying false rumors, so it gets the fans worried. But I don't think it should. There are a lot of things to talk about and make sure it's done the right way and both parties are happy."

Will Stamkos sign with the Lightning, Lecavalier was asked.

"I have no doubt."

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

Tampa Bay Lightning's Vinny Lecavalier can relate to Steven Stamkos' protracted contract talks 07/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 11:21am]
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