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Many rumors, little movement

The dust has settled, a week has passed and all but Drew Bannister made it through deadline day without having to relocate from Tampa Bay.

Dino Ciccarelli went nowhere. Shawn Burr still is here. Rick Tabaracci, too _ and it turns out he even helped broker the deal that brought rugged defenseman Jamie Huscroft from Calgary to Tampa Bay at the mere cost of minor-league goalie Tyler Moss.

Who came closest to going but did not is a matter of speculation now.

Oh, there are post-mortem rumors.

GM Phil Esposito confirmed talk of a six-player trade that fell apart just before the deadline, but he wouldn't name the supposed principals involved.

Gossip from Philadelphia is that center Rod Brind'Amour, goalie Garth Snow and a defenseman were to have been part of the deal, and hearsay has it that Ciccarelli, Tabaracci and perhaps Bannister were headed the other way.

There are various combinations of other players involved in the same supposed deal. Who knows what to believe?

And then there was the rumor that had Jason Wiemer going to Pittsburgh and Roman Hamrlik to San Jose as part of a six-player, three-team swap that was going to bring, if you buy it, Owen Nolan to the Lightning.

One NHL scout even said Hamrlik was being shopped heartily at the deadline, though that may be his version of Esposito entertaining a variety of offers, some ridiculous and others refreshing, for the franchise defenseman.

The reality, though, is that none of those deals went through, and only Esposito and a select few others know what really was discussed.

What did happen is that one tough stay-at-home defenseman came from Calgary, a deal inspired by Tabaracci's recommendation, and one defenseman with wheels, Jeff Norton, arrived from Edmonton, the cost of course being Bannister.

After Huscroft's first three games in a Lightning uniform, it seems as if Esposito got a relative steal and Tabaracci should give consideration to becoming a GM when his days in goal are done.

At the expense of a curious prospect who was not panning out (Moss), Tampa Bay got a guy with enough grit to stand up to Vancouver brute Donald Brashear.

He hits and even stands guys up at the blue line. What a pleasant novelty in the Lightning defense.

And if the biggest knock on Huscroft is that he is slow, or that some of his passes are ill-advised, he should fit in well with some of the backliners already wearing bolts.

As for the Bannister-for-Norton trade, that is a tougher sell than Moss-for-Huscroft.

For nearly $1-million more than what Bannister was making, Esposito got a guy nine years older who already has been shipped away by four other clubs.

And it cost him a kid who, granted, might have been slipping at the end of his first full NHL season and might have a bit of a bum shoulder.

But one perhaps overardent Edmonton writer went so far as to call Bannister "a young Luke Richardson," comparing him with the Oilers defenseman Edmonton will try to re-sign this summer, in part by using some of the cash saved by dealing Norton's $1.25-million contract for Bannister's $350,000.

At the very least, Bannister is a player with unknown potential, certainly enough to make most believe he has a long-term NHL career ahead of him.

If, however, Norton lives up to all that folks who have played against him (like Burr and Ciccarelli) say, it is a deal that instantly makes the Lightning at least a bit and perhaps even several bits better.

Norton skates better than any other Tampa Bay defenseman and carries the puck with more authority than all, including Hamrlik.

His shot might not be the league's greatest, and his defensive reliability remains to be seen, but at least maybe now the Lightning power play can get the puck into its opponent's zone.

And with that, let the rumors subside _ at least until summertime brings a whole new round.

Did you hear the one about... ?

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