Hockey

Lecavalier not the only subject of NHL trade talk

The rumour mill will be working overtime between now and the NHL's March 4 trade deadline, and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier isn't the only star who could be on the move.

Brian Lawton knew exactly what was coming.

The Tampa Bay Lightning general manager had just stepped out of a meeting of NHL governors when reporters surrounded him, and his position on fighting was not the topic of concern.

"I do not think it is fair to continue to talk about these things,'' said Lawton before anyone had even mentioned the possibility of trading Vince Lecavalier.

"I said he was not going to be traded. He won't be traded. Somebody asked me whether he will be traded on Monday. No. He won't and not on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday or any other day of the week."

But that won't stop the rumour mill from working overtime between now and the NHL's March 4 trade deadline.

The Lightning have a slim-to-none chance of advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they are not alone in that department.

Toronto, Ottawa, Atlanta, the New York Islanders, Los Angeles, Nashville and St. Louis are basically out of the playoff picture when play resumes Tuesday.

There will be buyers and sellers in the trade derby, and whether Lawton likes it or not, Levacalier's name will be linked to more rumours than the Lightning have wins.

Grew up in Montreal

Lecavalier was afforded royal treatment when he was in Montreal over the weekend for the all-star game. He is a hero in his hometown, and give the NHL a thumbs-up for putting him on a podium with a microphone in front of him when he met with the media.

And suffice it to say, playing in the all-star game was hardly brought up.

"You hear rumours," Lecavalier said when asked about being traded. "But this one [a trade to the Canadiens] seemed to have a lot of legs. I was getting a lot of calls from family and friends."

Lecavalier grew up in Montreal, and he knows the storied history of the Habs.

"It's basically like a religion here. Everybody loves the Canadiens. For someone who's born here, to play here [would] add a little bit of pressure. But good pressure. It's a great town … a great organization, I've always said that, for a lot of Montreal [native] players, it would be a dream place to play.

"[Lightning management] have told everybody, or they've told me, that nothing's happening right now," Lecavalier continued. "But you can't predict the future in professional sports. If it happens, it happens."

Lecavalier, however, won't be the only star whose name will pop up in trade rumours.

Gaborik a good fit for Canucks?

Florida Panthers defenceman Jay Bouwmeester can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and general manager Jacques Martin may have to either sign him by the deadline or think about sending him elsewhere.

"[Money is] not always everything," Bouwmeester said about an hour before Lecavalier held his session with the media. "I've never played in the playoffs. That's No. 1. Where that is, whether it's Florida or not, who knows?"

The Canadiens are in need of a puck-carrying defenceman, so they might be interested in Bouwmeester. The other possibility for the Habs is Tomas Kaberle of the Maple Leafs. Kaberle has said he'd waive his no-trade clause, and GM Brian Burke would want draft picks and prospects in return.

In Minnesota, the oft-injured Marian Gaborik is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and it's believed the Wild would like to jettison him by the deadline rather than get nothing back in the summer.

The Vancouver Canucks definitely have the cap room to add a forward like Gaborik, and it's a good bet GM Mike Gillis would like to add more offensive punch to go up against Western Conference powerhouses San Jose and Detroit.

You might think a puck-moving defenceman who makes about $700,000 US would be most coveted at the trade deadline. But those types of players are in short supply, and the buyers and sellers will be busy in the rent-a-player scenario or dumping players (Toronto's Nik Antropov, for example) that don't fit into future plans.

The list of potential rent-a-player types on teams most likely not going to the playoffs includes:

  • Bill Guerin and Doug Weight of the Islanders.
  • Keith Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues.
  • Mark Recchi of the Lightning.
  • Dominic Moore of the Maple Leafs.

In other words, veterans well past their prime.

"I haven't thought about it much," said Tkachuk over the weekend about moving to another team. "I know I'd like to play in the playoffs, but we'll see."