Update: Lecavalier in play? Some sources say yes, Lightning say no

January, 12, 2009
01/12/09
11:55
AM ET
The NHL community was abuzz Monday with Vincent Lecavalier trade rumors.

But again, for the record, the Tampa Bay Lightning deny they are shopping the star center.

"I am not calling teams on Vinny Lecavalier," Lightning GM Brian Lawton told ESPN.com on Monday.

They may not be shopping him, but that can't stop other teams from calling the Lightning about Lecavalier.

"Believe me, they are talking to teams," an NHL executive told ESPN.com on Monday.

Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, flew to Los Angeles to get a handle on things. The Lightning were scheduled to play the Kings on Monday night.

"I've been told by Brian Lawton that they are not actively shopping Vinny," Hughes told ESPN.com from Los Angeles. "They have received phone calls [from other teams] because people are hearing about the team maybe being in financial distress. But I was told they are not actively looking to move him."

For weeks, there have been rumors about Tampa Bay's financial situation, which really helped fuel the Lecavalier trade talk because other NHL teams wondered if the Lightning could afford to keep the star player.

"It is a very difficult economy out there as people know and realize around the world," Lawton said. "And it certainly affects our business, as it does so many others. But the Tampa Bay Lightning, absolutely and unequivocally, are not going out of business. I have been reading it now for over two months and I think it's fraudulent for people to write. It's unfounded. Enough is enough."

As we reported this past weekend, the Lightning's financial situation got straightened out last week during a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the folks from Palace Sports & Entertainment, the main lenders in the Lightning sale. That was an important development, we are told, and it gives the Lightning some breathing room going forward.

So now what? It'll be interesting to see how the Lecavalier situation unfolds.

TSN's Darren Dreger reported Monday the Montreal Canadiens have shown strong interest in acquiring Lecavalier and have offered Chris Higgins and possibly Tomas Plekanec as part of a big package. A source told ESPN.com that the Canadiens have coveted Lecavalier "since the start of the season."

Canadiens GM Bob Gainey, holding court with reporters in Montreal during his midseason chat, said this when asked about Lecavalier on Monday:

"We don't really talk about trade rumors," said Gainey. "If I don't talk about them, our players don't hear about them and that's likely the best way to go about it. What happens in any of these situations, whether it's Marian Gaborik or [Jay] Bouwmeester, those names come up for different reasons, and if we're involved, we like to do it quietly and be able to announce when something happens, rather than talk about it endlessly.

"At this time of year, we're working with the team we have now," Gainey continued. "We're looking to maybe reinforce our team according to the analysis and information we get from our club. We're always available. There's a price for everything. And if we have a chance at an impact player, we would evaluate the cost and see what happened.''

So that wasn't a yes or no when it came to Lecavalier, right? Fact is, however, what Gainey really needs is an impact defenseman before the March 4 trade deadline, and he admitted as much while speaking in French to the French media Monday.

Whatever happens in Tampa, a source told ESPN.com the Lecavalier camp has been assured if the Lightning ever decide to move him, they will ask the star center for a list of teams he would want to go to.

Technically, Lecavalier doesn't have a no-movement clause until July 1, when his 11-year, $85 million contract extension kicks in. However, Lecavalier got a verbal commitment from Lightning ownership last summer that the team would not trade him. The bottom line is, if the Lightning ever got an offer it couldn't refuse on Lecavalier, it would go through him first before anyone acted on it.

No-trade clauses haven't stopped the Lightning before. They moved Brad Richards (at last season's trade deadline) and Dan Boyle (this past summer) after both players waived their respective clauses.

Of course, there isn't a long list of teams that can absorb Lecavalier's new contract, especially in these economic times.

"That contract is problematic for most of us," an NHL GM said.

Why? For starters, although the salary-cap hit starting next season will be $7.73 million (the average of the deal), the actual real-money salary is $10 million a year for the first seven seasons of the deal.

"For teams with budgets, that's going to be too much," the GM said.

Here's how the contract will play out:

2009-10: $10 million
2010-11: $10 million
2011-12: $10 million
2012-13: $10 million
2013-14: $10 million
2014-15: $10 million
2015-16: $10 million
2016-17: $8.5 million
2017-18: $4 million
2018-19: $1.5 million
2019-20: $1 million

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