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GM has payroll flexibility

Energized by Tuesday's long-awaited trade for a top-four defenseman, Lightning CEO Tom Wilson indicated Thursday that ownership would be receptive if general manager Jay Feaster suggested another deal this season.

The Lightning acquired veteran Darryl Sydor from Columbus on Tuesday for center Alexander Svitov, the No. 3 overall pick in 2001. The move increased payroll but satisfied a two-year need for a top-four defenseman.

"This has sort of been a sore spot for the fans, the media and for us," said Wilson, on hand for Sydor's debut after speaking at a convention in Tampa.

"When we came in here, we took out ads in your newspapers with 10 promises to the fans. And the last piece was, "Are you going to spend the money to get a real player?' People ask, "Was it a battle for (Feaster) to convince you to do this?' No.

"We knew Jay wasn't going to come to us until he had the guy that was going to be the perfect fit. Jay has so much credibility. If he came in tomorrow and had another one, we would probably, more than likely, say, "Sure.' "

Wilson also said he expects other unresolved issues to fall "like a house of cards," including the contract status of Feaster and coach John Tortorella and his staff. Feaster has an option for next season, and the coaches' contracts expire at the end of this season. Also, the Lightning needs a minor-league affiliate.

"I think that's all going to be handled in short order," Wilson said.

PRATT SITS: With Sydor in the lineup, Nolan Pratt is the odd man out.

"Oh, he's mad," Tortorella said.

Pratt, a seventh-year player in his third season with the Lightning, has been in this position before. He was a healthy scratch for the first 13 games last season and released during the offseason. Re-signed to a one-year contract, Pratt was one of nine who played in all of the first 49 games.

"He does not want to be a guy who's going to sit out the next 20 games, and he let it be known to me," Tortorella said. "But he understands the situation, and he understands being a pro. He's not a disturbance within the club. He is going to continue to work and just wait to be called on again."

PLAYER APPEARANCE: Center Brad Richards will sign autographs from 5-6 p.m. today at SDI Diagnostic Imaging at Swann and Howard streets in south Tampa. Dave Andreychuk had been scheduled to appear.

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Darren Rumble was assigned to AHL Hershey for a two-game conditioning stint and will return for Monday's game at Philadelphia. Left wing Andre Roy was a healthy scratch. Linesman Derek Amell left with 2:15 left in the first after being struck in the leg by a puck. X-rays were negative.

_ JOANNE KORTH

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