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Lightning deflects trade talk

Lightning general manager Rick Dudley called it "total drivel."

Coach Steve Ludzik said, "I would put zero credence in it."

Both were talking about a report in the New York Post that said Dudley was preparing to trade for Senators superstar Alexei Yashin with a package that includes goaltender Dan Cloutier.

"We have no intention of doing that," Dudley said.

Ludzik was more upset the story called his relationship with Cloutier "dysfunctional."

"That's a disgraceful comment," Ludzik said. "I wouldn't even know how to answer that. I've seen him here at (the practice rink in) Brandon. We sit down and talk. The relationship is great."

Cloutier said the relationship "has been good," and told of how Ludzik took shots on him before practices to help him break out of a slump.

"It's pretty rare when you have a head coach trying to help you out that much," Cloutier said.

As for his future, Cloutier said, "I'd rather be here right now. You don't want to go through a season like this and, knowing it's going to be much better, leave at this time."

The Ottawa Sun had Yashin, suspended by the Senators last season in a contract dispute, possibly going to Tampa Bay for center Vincent Levacalier.

"That," Dudley said, "will not happen."

TUGGING AT TUGNUTT: Penguins owner Mario Lemieux said goaltender and potential free agent Ron Tugnutt played so well in the playoffs, he may have priced himself out of Pittsburgh.

"He is in a great position," Lemieux said. "It is our goal to sign him, but it might be very difficult."

Tugnutt's agent, Pat Morris, has said signing with the Penguins is his client's first choice, but he would consider Tampa Bay if things did not work out.

Tugnutt made $850,000 last season. He is expected to ask for at least $2-million.

IS PETRO PACKING?: Dudley said he knows the players he will protect in next month's expansion draft. He said center Robert Petrovicky probably will not be one of them. The 26-year-old played 43 games last season and had seven goals and 10 assists with a plus-2 rating.

"He did everything we could ask," Dudley said. "He's a top-two line guy. If we don't see him on the top two lines, we should let him go to where he could advance his NHL career."

YOUNG GUNS: Two of the Lightning's top junior prospects are in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the Memorial Cup, a round-robin tournament that brings together the champions of Canada's three junior leagues and the team from the host city.

Left wing Brad Richards, a 1998 third-round pick, plays for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Right wing Sheldon Keefe, a 1999 second-round selection, plays for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.

The teams play each other Tuesday.

Richards may have some added incentive. While the Lightning need only make a contract offer to keep Keefe's rights, Richards will go back into the draft unless he signs by June 1.

The Lightning has made what Dudley called "a hell of a good offer." Morris, Richards' agent, said no talks are scheduled until after the weekend.

That could be crucial. As Dudley said, "If he doesn't accept it, we're going to do some re-evaluating at the Memorial Cup. Then he's playing against the OHL and WHL and we can measure it from what he does against those teams."

On the other hand, he said, "He can go into the Memorial Cup and light it up, and if he does that, then we may have to re-evaluate."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Capitals' new uniforms are being designed by Tommy Hilfiger. The dominant colors will be black and white. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press that Brendan Shanahan's concerns over a lack of playing time in the playoffs have been addressed. "It's a dead issue," Holland said. "Brendan is looking forward to training camp and starting fresh."

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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