melrose-barry-2007-getty

Barry Melrose, seen at a 2007 event, last coached in the NHL in 1995. ((Noah Graham/Getty Images))

Barry Melrose, who has spent the last dozen years as a hockey commentator, found himself on Friday deflecting reports that he will return to the NHL as a coach.

It has been rumoured in hockey circles that Melrose is the choice of the Tampa Bay Lightning's prospective ownership to take over as coach. The Toronto Star reported late Thursday a deal would officially be announced within a few days, with Melrose receiving $2 million US per season.

Melrose admitted on Friday that he wanted to coach in the NHL again but said "nothing's going on."

"Every year, and including this year, more than one team has contacted me to see if I want to coach anymore," said Melrose. "I work for ESPN and I'm very happy at ESPN."

Melrose's NHL resumé consists of 2 ½ years as coach from 1992 to 1995. He brought the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup final in 1994, where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens, and had a regular season record of 82-103-31.

Prior to his term with the Kings, he won the AHL's Calder Cup as coach of the Adirondack Red Wings and the Memorial Cup guiding the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The NHL's Board of Governors is scheduled to vote on June 18 on the sale of the Lightning to a group that is headed by movie producer Oren Koules.

John Tortorella has coached Tampa Bay since 2001, with the club winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. The Lightning finished 31-42-9 this past season, worst in the NHL, and will select first in the June entry draft.

Lightning general manager Jay Feaster released a statement on Friday that wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Tortorella.

"We have been asked by both Palace Sports & Entertainment and OK Hockey that unless a hockey operations issue is time-sensitive or deadline-sensitive, all items be deferred until after the closing of the sale of the franchise," said Feaster. "In as much as John Tortorella is under contract to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2008-09 season, this is not necessarily a time-sensitive issue."

Tortorella's coaching record is 227-195-35-35.