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Esposito, Murray continue talks, but decision likely a week away

Exactly one week after firing the only coach it ever had, Lightning general manager Phil Esposito said he probably won't name a permanent coach for at least another week.

Nevertheless, Esposito will go back to work today, renewing negotiations with the agent of former Flyers coach Terry Murray.

That does not mean, however, that Esposito is considering Murray only. Esposito said Saturday he plans to talk to former Kings coach Barry Melrose and he considers interim coach Rick Paterson as a possible successor to the fired Terry Crisp.

"I still want to do some investigating," Esposito said. "Just because I might agree to terms (of a contract) with someone does not mean that person will be offered the job. I want to make sure we can work a deal out with someone before moving on with my investigation. Only after really studying everything would I offer someone the job."

Esposito spoke briefly with Murray's agent, Robin Burns, late Friday, but the two did not speak Saturday. They are scheduled to resume talks today. Esposito denied a Philadelphia newspaper report that the two discussed a four-year contract worth $2-million.

Murray said he was not aware of a deal, and that all negotiations at this point are between Esposito and Burns. He added that his interest in coaching the Lightning remains strong.

"Yes, I'm interested, but I don't know where things stand right now," Murray said Saturday. "Any negotiations about money or terms of a deal are between Phil and my agent at this point. And since I have not spoken to my agent as of yet, I haven't heard anything."

Esposito said he feels no urgency to name a permanent coach because he believes the team is in capable hands with Paterson.

"Think about Rick: He's been a head coach in the (minors), an assistant coach under (the NHL's winningest coach Scotty) Bowman, he practically ran the Penguins back when they won their (Stanley) Cups, he has all the qualifications," Esposito said. "The players like him, his practices are hard and solid. I really like what I see from him. I don't feel I need to make a quick decision."

Esposito is scheduled to attend the Lightning practice today then leave tonight for the general manager's meetings, which will be held in Dallas on Monday and Tuesday.

While there, he plans to speak with, among others, two of Murray's former bosses: David Poile and Bob Clarke. Poile was the general manager when Murray coached in Washington. Clarke is the general manager of the Flyers. He also hopes to talk to Nick Beverly, general manager in Los Angeles when Melrose was coach.

"This is all part of the process," Esposito said. "No matter who will be offered the job, you can bet that I've done a thorough investigation. I might agree to terms of a contract with someone, but they are not going to be offered the job unless I'm positive they are right for the job. I'm not going to be railroaded into making a quick decision just because everyone thinks we have to have a permanent coach right now.

"Right now, Rick Paterson is doing a good job. Eventually, I might go another direction _ Murray or Melrose or whatever. Or Rick might be the coach. That's why it may take some time. I want to make the right decision."

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