January 14, 2008 :: 9:38am ET
Real-Time Journal:

Lightning can't afford to trade Lecavalier
By David Pagnotta
TheFourthPeriod.com

[Toronto, ON] -- There are few true superstars in sport these days. I'm not talking about 100-point players in the NHL or the 40 homeruns ball players crack out of MLB parks. I'm talking about a bonafide star athlete that not only produces on the stat sheet, but makes everyone around him that much better.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have that kind of stud. The Washington Capitals boast their own megastar. Even the San Jose Sharks can argue that they possess such a competitor.

The Tampa Bay Lightning knows it has this type of talent…but for how much longer?

Vincent LecavalierAs the rumor mill continues to build over a possible Vincent Lecavalier trade, it's become evidently clear that there have been a few crossed wires in the Lightning camp.

Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, was assured by Tampa co-owner Oren Koules that his client was not about to be moved.

A couple days later, reports surfaced on both TSN.ca and TheFourthPeriod.com that a deal had been discussed between the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens, and the likes of Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Josh Gorges and prospect P.K. Subban have been offered in a deal for Lecavalier.

Hughes later traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Lightning faceoff against the Kings Monday night in an attempt to obtain further information about the matter.

I've had the privilege of covering the NHL for going on eight years. I consider this a privilege because the people within the hockey community, from players and team executives, to media figureheads, are among the most personable people in sport.

Throughout the last couple seasons, I've had a number of discussions with a more players than I can remember, including Lecavalier. I cannot recall one time where he spoke ill of playing in Tampa, let alone hint that he was unhappy there.

A source close to the organization, who spoke on the basis of anonymity, told me "Vinny has always had very warm feelings for Tampa."

The organization has been very good to Lecavalier over the years, since they drafted him first-overall in 1998. From Rick Dudley to Jay Feaster to Koules and Co., the Lightning has always treated him with the respect he deserves, and he's grateful for it.

If you get a chance to run into him, ask him about what it's like to play in Tampa. At any time, whether in February or June, you can leave practice and drive down Channelside Drive with the top down -- which is a great feeling, by the way. The hockey community isn't huge, which gives stars like Lecavalier enough privacy without being bombarded by autograph hounds day-in, day-out like in some other markets.

The fact of the matter is Lecavalier loves playing and living in Tampa. That's one of the reasons he pledged $3 million in October 2007 to construct the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

And as much as he loves the city he works in, he also wants to see his team succeed and compete on a regularly basis.

"Simply making the playoffs was never his goal," a source said.

The 28-year-old is a winner. He craves winning. It fuels him. There's no doubting the fact that he's been frustrated with the Lightning's performance so far this season. To date, the Bolts are 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 13-19-10 record. The team has gone through a major ownership change, two coaching changes, they replaced their general manager and brought in a number of new faces via free agency and trades.

Inevitably, it was going to take some time for this team to get its act together and gel. So far, that still hasn't happened.

Vincent LecavalierDespite reports of ownership troubles (which, by the way, is no longer an issue after the new group, OK Hockey, tweaked its financing plan with former owners Palace Sports & Entertainment), the team is fine. They're not in any real financial trouble. Their owners are, for lack of a better term, loaded.

With that in mind, why on earth would the team trade away its captain, its superstar, in an attempt to rebuild?

There are other ways of saving some coin. Lecavalier is a player you build around, not trade away.

Lightning GM Brian Lawton has denied having any trade discussions with any of his counterparts. While that's not entirely true, he did tell the Tampa Tribune, "Are we trying to trade Vinny Lecavalier? No, we are not."

Okay, so if we read between the lines a little, "trying" would imply the team has initiated negotiations with other teams, presumably the Habs. That doesn't entirely mean they're not listening to what other clubs have to offer.

Maybe that's a bit of a stretch? Or, maybe not.

"If Vinny Lecavalier isn't here, it's because he doesn't want to be here," Lawton said.

Oddly enough, this ties directly into what TSN reported earlier in the week, when they claimed that the decision would ultimate fall on Lecavalier himself if he wanted to accept a move to Montreal.

Lecavalier signed an 11-year, $86 million contract extension in the summer, which includes a no-trade clause. However, that deal doesn't take affect until July 1, so technically the Bolts could move him at almost anytime before that date.

Again, the idea of dealing Lecavalier doesn't much a whole lot of sense from the Lightning standpoint.

What would they possibly have to gain by dealing him? With all due respect to the other players tied in to this story, the reported offer for Lecavalier doesn't even include a proven star athlete in return, let alone superstar.

If you're the Canadiens, you love your chances if the offer is being seriously considered. If you're the Lightning, you put down the kool-aid and reflect. If someone needs to go, it isn't Lecavalier. There are other options.

Hold on to Lecavalier. Build around him and Steven Stamkos. If someone has to go, you move a player like Martin St. Louis and bring in strong young assets that complement the style of your two top centermen.

Listen, it's simple. Before the season started, Lecavalier had the mindset of finishing his career with one team. For the most part, that hasn't changed. But regardless of what certain team officials say, talks have taken place and this option has been considered.

It's unlikely a deal will take place in the near future, but then again, things can change in the blink of an eye -- just ask Dan Boyle, now a member of San Jose's blueline.

As they say; whatever happens, happens. If he's dealt, Lecavalier will always have a place in his heart of Tampa. If he stays, he can focus on getting the Lightning back into the Stanley Cup Finals.

Either way, we'll know soon enough.


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com and MSNBC. His journals appear throughout the entire season exclusively on TFP.

  Archives:
  Jan. 12, 2009 Lightning, Habs have Lecavalier trade on table
  Dec. 31, 2008 Penguins' New Year wish: A winger for Sidney
  Dec. 02, 2008 Avery sinks to new low
  Nov. 15, 2008 Quebec City working towards new arena
  Oct. 21, 2008 Another team in TO? Interesting!
  Sept. 23, 2008 Winnipeg remains a viable option


 


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