Door open (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday December 12, 2007 3:10PM; Updated: Wednesday December 12, 2007 3:32PM
Oren Koules, the Hollywood producer (the Saw movie franchise), is back in the picture as a potential owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning after settling a lawsuit brought by his former partners, ex-NHL executive Doug MacLean and Jeff Sherrin, after their initial bid to buy the team from Palace Sports & Entertainment imploded.
Why should this matter to anyone outside central Florida?
Well, Koules reportedly adores the Big Three of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards, which means general manager Jay Feaster has even more incentive to keep them all even, though their three salaries gobble up roughly half of the Lightning's $44 million payroll.
That, of course, didn't stop the rumors during the Lightning's poor stretch of road games last week. One had St. Louis headed to Dallas and another had Richards using his no-trade clause to block a deal to Montreal. "Who makes up this [crap]?" Richards told On The Fly.
Lecavalier is the only player among the three without a no-trade clause, but the "best player in the league" in the words of John Tortorella (Aside No. 2: if USA Hockey doesn't reward the Lightning's passionate coach with the head job at the 2010 Olympics, Congress should investigate) isn't going anywhere - ever, Feaster says. There isn't fair value in the market for an absolute stud who nevertheless is not quite "the Michael Jordan of hockey," as former owner Art Williams unfortunately labeled him when the Lightning drafted Lecavalier No. 1 overall in 1998.
The understated gem of the trio is Richards, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner when the Lightning took the Stanley Cup in 2004. In a 3-2 shootout victory in Montreal on Tuesday, Richards might have had the best 1:56 of any player in the NHL this season. He stayed on the ice for an entire Tampa Bay penalty kill at the end of overtime, winning a critical defensive zone faceoff against Saku Koivu by stealing the draw and moving the puck forward, swerving around the Montreal captain in order to clear the zone. (Too subtle a play to make ESPN's Top 10 list, but there you go.) Then he scored the only goal in the shootout, hurtling down the ice and firing a puck over goalie Carey Price's blocker.
The Montreal shuffle
Who says America is the only land of opportunity? Mathieu Dandenault began the season as the sixth defenseman and wound up on right wing on the Canadiens' No. 1 line against the Lightning. Because of the egregious play of former top-liner Michael Ryder (three goals, 10 points), coach Guy Carbonneau has moved players around like a three-card Monte sharpie.
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