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Murray reportedly offered Lightning job

Former Flyers coach Terry Murray has been offered a four-year, $2-million deal to coach the Lightning, the Philadelphia Daily News reported today.

The Daily News said Murray is seriously considering the offer to become Terry Crisp's successor.

Neither Murray; his agent, Robin Burns; nor Lightning general manager Phil Esposito could be reached late Friday night.

Earlier Friday, Esposito said he had spoken briefly with both Murray and former Kings coach Barry Melrose about the job, which could go to interim coach Rick Paterson if neither Murray nor Melrose pan out.

"I know that Rick wants the job," Esposito said after practice at the Ice Sports Forum, where for the second time in four days the GM took an active role in coaching the team. "He feels he's ready to do it, and Rick knows he's right there in the same breath as Barry (Melrose) and Terry Murray."

Both Murray and Melrose previously indicated interest in the position, but just how much either one wants it remains to be seen.

"He's got some interest," Esposito said of Murray, who earlier in the week squashed rumors he might be frightened by the prospect of coming to a for-sale franchise in the midst of a nine-game winless streak. "That's what he said."

But at what price?

"If he's gonna ask for a million dollars (per season), he ain't gonna get it," Esposito said before reports of the four-year, $2-million deal were made public. "You don't just get a guy. It's a matter of negotiating."

Esposito said Murray, who was fired as coach of the Flyers after guiding to them to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, referred him to Burns, and that the two sides will speak again.

As for Melrose, Esposito said the Lightning is quite interested in the NHL studio analyst for ESPN.

"I'm as serious about Barry as I am about Rick Paterson or Terry Murray," Esposito said. "That's the three."

Melrose said he wants to listen. He plans to speak at length Sunday with Esposito, who has been spurned once already _ by former Sabres coach Ted Nolan _ after firing Crisp.

If Murray and Melrose back out, too _ or if Esposito decides the price is wrong, or for some other reason opts against them _ the job probably goes to Paterson.

The former Chicago Blackhawk forward apprenticed under Scotty Bowman and the late Bob Johnson in Pittsburgh before coaching Cleveland in the International Hockey League.

Esposito said Paterson's lack of name recognition and lack of NHL head coaching experience should not be held against him: "You have to start somewhere."

Whoever is selected must start on reversing fortunes for the 2-9-2 Lightning, which is off until a four-game road trip that opens Wednesday at Anaheim.

"I'd give (Murray) or Paterson or Melrose a tremendous bonus for making the playoffs," Esposito said, adding the search may not last long. "I really think we would make a decision pretty soon, in the next week or two."

NOTES: Troy Mallette, out with a herniated disc in his neck, will see a specialist in Tampa early next week and may travel with the team Tuesday to see Los Angeles-based specialist Robert Watkins, the same doctor who performed surgery last year on Lightning goalie Daren Puppa. Mikael Renberg missed practice because he had his wisdom teeth extracted Thursday, and David Shaw was out with back spasms. The team practices at 10:30 this morning at the Ice Sports Forum.

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