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Posted: Tuesday January 13, 2009 11:47AM; Updated: Thursday January 15, 2009 12:35PM
Michael Farber Michael Farber >
ON THE FLY

Lecavalier doesn't need Montreal

Story Highlights

Rumored blockbuster would help the Lightning and Habs, but not Lecavalier

Cash-starved Bolts would like to shed his new 11-year, $85 million extension

The absurd level of Habs mania would trap the native Montrealer in a fishbowl

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vincent-lecavalier.jpg
The Lightning are taking their lumps and Lecavalier's no-trade clause doesn't kick in until next summer, but team owners would be classless to trade him without his permission.
Elsa/Getty Images

A memo to Vincent Lecavalier: Say no.

When Tampa Bay Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie or general manager Brian Lawton formally approach you about a trade to the Montreal Canadiens, tell them sorry, but forget about it.

If you want to go "home" -- and really, you haven't lived in Montreal since you left to play hockey in Saskatchewan as a teenager -- you can drop by for a few weeks in the summer. Try the smoked meat and bagels.

Sure, a deal makes sense for the Lightning, especially if money is tight in Tampa Bay for the new ownership group. Your no-trade clause doesn't kick in until after the season and if that 11-year, $85-million extension you signed last summer is giving ownership cold sweats at night, now is the time for Koules and the Gang to ask for a do-over. (They could trade you without your permission, of course, but unless they are overcome with a total lack of class, they will consult with you, their captain and the cornerstone of the 2004 Stanley Cup champions, before making any move.)

Although you are coming off shoulder surgery and have had a middling first half by your lofty standards -- an average of less than a point per game -- you are only 28 years old and could attract a passel of young players and draft picks to restock the cupboards. Now, surely there would be short-term pain for the Lightning, and maybe the Tampa Bay market would revolt, but if Lawton used those players and picks, or flipped some of them intelligently, the deal could be the cornerstone of a Lightning revival.

The most renowned example is the Eric Lindros trade, which essentially set up the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche with the base of three Stanley Cup winners. More recently, after some wheeling and dealing, the Boston Bruins have recovered enough from the Joe Thornton trade in late 2005 to become the best team in the Eastern Conference. The team that gets the best player -- in this case, you -- isn't necessarily going to win this trade in the long or even medium term.

A deal also makes sense for Montreal. This is the no-holds-barred 100th season for the Canadiens, a Stanley Cup-or-bust kind of year. If you are plugged into the top line, they seriously upgrade the talent and improve a team that stumbled in the second playoff round last spring. For more than a decade, the Canadiens have forced undersized Saku Koivu basically to play as a No. 1 center -- shame on Montreal management for not slotting him properly all these years -- and now, when healthy, he could comfortably slip down a notch.

Given the Canadiens' depth at forward, they have enough quality spare parts not to be ravaged by a trade. As for losing some future first-round selections and defenseman P.K. Subban -- a Team Canada world juniors star, he is among the players TSN in Canada reported to be in the mix for a prospective deal (the others include Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, and Josh Gorges) -- the future can take care of itself. If owner George Gillett wants to increase the worth of his franchise in this downtrodden economy before selling off a percentage of it, he most certainly could use a marketable homegrown star -- an element missing in Montreal since 2002 Hart Trophy-winning goaltender José Théodore's career fizzled -- and the Canadiens' 25th Cup.

This deal makes sense to everybody but you.

Maybe the circus in Tampa Bay has got you down -- would it surprise anybody if one night the Lightning lineup clambered out of a Volkswagen Beetle wearing fright wigs and wielding seltzer bottles? -- but leaving the circus for the zoo is not much of an improvement.

Something as disturbing as it is wonderful has occurred in Montreal since the owners' lockout in 2004-05. Hockey - more specifically, the Canadiens -- is bigger than ever. The team that the late Mordecai Richler once described as a spiritual necessity is now officially a religion. (Really. One of the local French-language universities is offering a course: The Religion of the Canadiens.) The passion for the team, and the attention lavished on the players, has spilled over the boundaries of all common sense. You would be walking smack into this merry maelstrom. A fishbowl existence would await. (They do have fishbowls in zoos, don't they?)

You don't need this. You have your Stanley Cup. You have your life in Tampa. You have your community, which has benefited from the money you have donated to a children's hospital. And you don't have the need to come "home" because, even though most people don't know this about you, you are a worldly guy with an open spirit (as they say in French). You even enjoyed playing in Kazan of the Russian Superleague during the lockout, although some of the charter flights on those Yak 42s were a little dicey.

So do yourself a favor. You and agent Kent Hughes negotiated your deal in good faith, showing loyalty to an organization. Unless something has changed dramatically since the summer, stick it out.

And if you want to leave, well, think of an option other than Montreal.

Unless you are really fond of calliope music.

Your turn

What's your take? Click here.

 
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