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Vinik endorses Yzerman's plan for Lightning

Jeff Vinik was clear he and Steve Yzerman, in the fourth year of a five-year deal, believe in patience when building a franchise.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jeff Vinik was clear he and Steve Yzerman, in the fourth year of a five-year deal, believe in patience when building a franchise.

TAMPA — Lightning owner Jeff Vinik on Saturday said long-term vision is more important than short-term hurdles and he and general manager Steve Yzerman are on the same page.

Vinik said Yzerman is doing "a great job" and "has my support 100 percent."

That shouldn't be a surprise after Yzerman convinced Vinik to spend $32.67 million to buy out the contract of team icon Vinny Lecavalier in the offseason.

Still, Tampa Bay has had some bumps under Yzerman, the longtime Red Wings star and executive hired in May 2010.

The team hasn't been to the playoffs since reaching the 2011 Eastern Conference final, is on its second coach, has ongoing goaltending issues and last season fell to 28th in the 30-team league. Yzerman also has said the Lightning might take a step back this season because of expected roster turnover as the team — with the luxury of a deep, talented minor-league system — transitions to a younger profile.

But Vinik, after speaking to a crowd of 4,516 at Fan Fest at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, was clear that he and Yzerman, in the fourth year of a five-year deal, believe in patience when building a franchise.

"There is no other way to do it," Vinik said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the job Steve is doing. He's put together the best, or one of the best staffs in hockey. I think they've done a great job drafting and developing young players. I think he's made a lot of good moves over the years."

Vinik said the "very difficult" decision to buy out Lecavalier was necessary: "I love Vinny Lecavalier. He's a great player. He's a great part of the community. But the current (collective bargaining agreement) left us no choice but to buy out his contract."

As for Yzerman's contract, which runs through the 2014-15 season, Vinik said discussions about an extension have not started but made it sound as if they would.

"I think I said it the day at the first (Yzerman) press conference," Vinik said. "He was, like, in Detroit for 19 years. I hope he's with this organization for 19 years, too."

BEHAVE YOURSELVES: Coach Jon Cooper won't impose an outright ban on fighting for scrimmages Monday and Tuesday. But he did say, "I would be highly doubtful, in those two scrimmages, if something would happen. I can't sit here and guarantee it, but I would be surprised."

"Because they play hard and because they play tough, sometimes that can happen," Cooper added, though he said players have been strongly advised to " 'keep your tempers intact. If anything should happen, take it out for when you play somebody in a different color.' "

CAPTAIN COMING: The team's new captain will be announced Oct. 1 at a previously scheduled, invitation-only event at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. RW Marty St. Louis and C Steven Stamkos are believed the prime candidates.

SCHEDULE: After three days of on-ice workouts, players today get what Cooper joked is a "gratuitous" day off. … Practice and scrimmages Monday and Tuesday at the Times Forum are open to the public at no charge. Enter Gate B at 11:30 a.m. The scrimmages will be streamed live at tampabaylightning.com.

Vinik endorses Yzerman's plan for Lightning 09/14/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 14, 2013 8:35pm]
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