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Laukkanen picks buyout over minor-league stint

When the Lightning signed free agent Janne Laukkanen last summer, the team had visions of another rushing defenseman providing some offensive zip and help on the power play.

But after a poor training camp and seven healthy scratches to begin the season, Laukkanen, 33, decided to take a $200,000 buyout on his $600,000 contract rather than go to the minor leagues.

He is expected to clear waivers Tuesday.

Neither Laukkanen nor his agent, Don Baizley, could be reached for comment. But general manager Jay Feaster said Laukkanen, who played two games for Tampa Bay during last season's playoffs and had surgery to fix an arthritic left hip, was a good gamble.

"It's part of what happens," Feaster said. "Things change, circumstances change. He's the odd man out and in my mind, the only way for him to get into the mix is to play."

But considering Laukkanen's inconsistent play, and his extensive time on the bench, it is believed Tampa Bay would rather, in a pinch, call up Pascal Trepanier who is playing well for AHL Hershey.

Losing Laukkanen opens a spot on the 23-player roster that could be filled by wing Shane Willis, who is tearing it up for Hershey, or Gerard Dicaire. The defenseman had a great camp and is with AHL Utah.

Tampa Bay may want to develop Dicaire with the big club. As the No. 8 defenseman, he likely would not play. Trepanier would continue to play in the minors so he is sharp for a recall.

The Lightning also could stick with 22 players as it did most of last season. Feaster said decisions will be made next week.

_ DAMIAN CRISTODERO

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