Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking....

With about 18 hours to go until the craziness that is unrestricted free agency in the NHL starts and 6 hours to go until Vincent gets a nice boost in his paycheck it looks more and more like he's staying here. Man what a run-on sentence that was. Montreal just pulled off a deal for a high priced center. Luckily for Lightning fans it wasn't Mr. Lecavalier.

Instead the Canadians picked up $7.35 million a year worth of Scott Gomez for Chris Higgans and some defensive prospects (Ryan MacDonagh and Pavel Valentenko) along with Wasteland favorite Doug Janik. The Rangers pick up some younger players and a ton of cap space. Does this make them players for Lecavalier now? I don't think so, but it does make Marty St Louis' $5.25 cap hit more reasonable.

Hopefully this will settle the rumors down a bit, but it's doubtful. Montreal picked up a high price center, but he's not necessarily a scoring center. Gomez's career high in the NHL is 33 and that was 4 seasons ago. The Habs now have 3 solid centerman under contract, but no real scorers. Unless of course they're counting on a breakout year for Glen Metropolit.

They still have plenty of cap room available to make a run at another high price offensive player. The chances of it being Vincent are diminished more by the fact that they traded what few assets the Lightning would want (Higgans and MacDonagh) than by his price tag. They also have the cash to pay for Vincent, which is something that is still in question with Tampa Bay.

Who else could Montreal target? Perhaps they make a run at Dany Heatley or give San Jose a call about Joe Thornton's availability. Phil Kessel almost was traded to Toronto so it wouldn't be unthinkable that Bob Gainey has been on the phone with his counterpart in Boston.

Fortunately all of that is Montreal's problem. As fascinating as it is to watch from a distance its relevance to Tampa Bay is fading. As for the hometown Lightning no news is good news so far. There isn't the trading of assets for the rights of potential free agents and they've made qualifying offers to the majority of their free agents. Commentors on the St Pete Times Blog can put their knives down now - Matt Smaby is staying in the blue and black.

The next day will be fun for some teams, hopefully for the Lightning it's rather ho-hum.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lightning Draft Hedman - hey maybe these guys know what they're doing after all

Shortly before the NHL draft started Friday evening I left a voice mail for my buddy Link. A Pittsburghian, Link was still basking in the glow of his team winning the Stanley Cup and could probably care less who the Penguins were drafting. On the other hand, my message belied my lack of confidence in Lightning Management. I believe it was something along the line of “I wonder how the Bolts are going to screw this up.” Visions of Brian Lawton dealing the number two pick for Louis DeBrusk and the rights to a 16 year old Canadian sheep farmer danced in my head.

One day later I can report that not only did they not screw it up, they actually had a pretty good first day. Victor Hedman immediately becomes one of their top four blue liners despite the fact that he isn’t old enough to legally enjoy a mojito. Then late in the day GM Brian Lawton sent two of their second round picks to Detroit for the 29th pick and used it on right winger Carter Ashton. Ashton is a big body with “NHL skating” ability. With little depth up front he might have an outside chance of making the roster this year.

Once the Islanders ended months of speculation by announcing John Tavares as their number one pick things fell into place for the Lightning. It didn’t take long for them to announce that they were taking Hedman, a large Swedish defenseman who’s been playing in the elite Swedish league since he was 16. If the Islanders had gone in a different direction, Lawton’s night would have been much more difficult.

A rumor floated around that if Tavares was available at number two the Lightning would pull off a complicated three team deal with Toronto and Nashville in which Tampa would end up with Luke Schenn and Shea Weber. Toronto GM Brian Burke had reiterated earlier in the day that Schenn was off the table, but if Tavares had been available he may have been tempted to deal the young defenseman.

Overall there wasn’t much drama at all in the draft. The Ducks sent aging defenseman Chris Pronger to Philadelphia for a package that included everything except the Liberty Bell. The 15 year veteran was traded for Joffrey Lupul, young blue liner Luca Sbisa, two first round picks and a third round pick. It appears that the Flyers are making a run at the Cup for this season. They mortgaged a lot of future potential for a player that is going to be a free agent after this season.

Neither Montreal or Toronto made the “big splash” that critics had expected. Montreal did make the home fans cheer when they drafted home town product Louis Leblanc. Amidst chants of “Sixty-Seven”, 1967 being the last year the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, Brian Burke drafted Nazeem Kadri. Kadri, an offensively gifted forward, was “excited to see who his new favorite team would be”. Well according to Twitter he was. Yes, I followed Twitter for the draft.

The Pronger deal was the only big deal made on the first day of the draft Both of the hot names on the market, Vincent Lecavalier and Dany Heatley, remain on their current team. A Phil Kessel to Toronto deal fell through when it was reported that Boston wouldn’t be getting Toronto’s seventh overall pick. Details, details.

TSN reported that Jay Bowmeester was traded to Calgary Saturday morning for the rights to Jordon Leopold and a third round pick. It will be interesting to see if Calgary can sign the big defender. They are already at about $45 million against a cap that is reported to be about $56 million. Perhaps the Flames will be looking to unload a player later in the summer (Cory Sarich at $3.6, possibly?) Western Conference teams can’t be looking forward to facing a team that can boast both Bowmeester and Dion Phaneuf.

In the end Friday was a big step forward for the Lightning franchise. They drafted a blue liner that is solid in his own zone and can add a little scoring. The owners didn’t get into a fist fight on the stage. Vincent is still wearing the blue and black. Not a bad day at all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

So close to completion!!!!!

I have to give many, many thanks to fellow O's fan Beardy for sending over the mother load of cards I needed for my Allen & Ginter set. With the 2009 set coming out in the next week or so I really wanted to have 2008 wrapped up by then. It's probably not going to happen, but it was worth a shot.

Only about 8 more cards to go!

Hockey Talk!

The sight of 50 people bobbing on their surfboards could mean only one thing. Summer is officially here. It’s that time of year in the TBA where you run from your air conditioned house to your air conditioned car an drive to your air conditioned office. Despite the fact that you’re outside for only 12 seconds you’re still sweating like a whore in church. The thermometer hits 94 (but it’s 110 with the heat index!). There is only one thing to think about now - hockey!

The draft is right around the corner and the Lightning have the second overall pick. Earlier rumors of them dealing the pick seem to be fading away. Without the ability to insure they’ll be able to snag wunderkind John Tavares they have nothing to offer Toronto so they are better off holding onto the pick and using it for Victor Hedman.

Since that drama has died down for the most part, they had to go and find some more to get into. It appears that the principle owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie, were dragged into Principal Bettman’s office on Tuesday. The reason - a decision had to be made as to who gets to make the decisions. It appears that the grownups can’t figure out who gets the final say on player acquisitions.

According to the Tampa Tribune Bettman ruled that Koules gets to be the last say in picking out who gets to play for the Lightning next season. That would indicate that he also gets to make the final say on if the team moves Vincent Lecavalier before his no trade portion of his contract kicks in on July 1st.

On the Lecavalier front there has been good news and bad news. Vincent is no longer the hot name on the trade front having been replaced by disgruntled Dany Heatley. Heatley, a multiple 40 goal scorer, is demanding that Ottawa trade him and his list of teams is similar to the list of teams that have shown interest in the Lightning center.

The bad news is that it looks like Montreal have a buyer in the Molson brothers. New owners like to make a big splash. Would they be willing to pull the trigger on bringing Lecavalier back to his hometown? Montreal has the money and the prospects that the Lightning covet.

It’s not very reassuring for fans when the owners of their favorite team can’t come together on the basic concept of building a team. General Manager Brian Lawton officially is in charge of player acquisitions, but must get approval from both owners. I can imagine the conversation in the Lightning offices at Channelside:

Lawton: Hey Len, can I trade Marty to the Rangers for a draft pick and Dan Giraldi?
Barrie: What did Oren say?
Lawton: Um he said it was ok with him if it was ok with you.
Barrie: Did he really say that or are you making that up?
Lawton: No. He really said that. Don’t call him though, he’s working on a movie right now.
Barrie: OK. I believe you, go ahead and do it….by the way do you want to buy some property in Canada?

Lawton’s job was made a little bit harder when reports surfaced that back up goalie Kari Ramo signed a two year deal with Omsk in the Russian KHL. The team now doesn’t have an experienced back up for Mike Smith, who as of right now still isn’t fully recovered from his concussion from last season. Mike McKenna is a restricted free agent and Riku Helenius could still use a full season in the minors.

Resigning McKenna would make the most sense financially, even with a modest raise over his last season salary of $475,000 would be cheaper than acquiring an experienced, veteran backup. How aggressively they pursue a backup might indicate how worried they are about Smith.

It’s a shame that so much of the focus on this team is directed to the front office. The chat rooms and message boards should be filled with talk about the team’s performance, not if they’re going to get paid. Winning would go a long way to helping remedy the problem. On paper the team isn’t that bad. They could use a little bit of strength on the blue line, but it’s not as bad some think it might be. They have a stable of young defenders that will be strengthened with the addition of Hedman.

Unfortunately, until they settle the debacle that is the front office (perhaps by ousting one of the owners) nothing is going to change. Luckily the league is dealing with the mess that is Phoenix right now. The meeting with Bettman might be an indication that the league is slowly focusing their attention to Chaos at Channelside.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Get Ready for Musical Chairs - The Pitching Staff Medley

Despite a couple of losses to the Rockies it looks like the Rays are slowly righting their ship. Some of the walking wounded are coming back (Jason Bartlett looks like he hasn’t missed a beat), so is it time that they make their move? When last I wrote I mentioned that there was plenty of season left, and there still is, but Tampa Bay needs to make sure they keep the pressure on.

While they have managed to bring their record over .500 on the season they haven’t managed to gain any ground on the leaders. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and have dropped a game to Boston. They now stand 6 games back. It’s not an insurmountable lead, but it would be nice to see them whittle that down to 2 or 3 bay the all star break.

One of the key components in helping them make a run returns soon when Scott Kazmir comes off of the DL. I would imagine he has one start in Durham before joining the big league roster. It’s not likely that he’ll be used out of the bullpen so one of the starters is going to have to go. Matt Garza and James Shields are secure. An argument can be made that Jeff Niemann has been their most effective starter over the last month or so.

So that leaves two candidates, the young phenom David Price or everyone’s favorite double jointed right hander, Andy Sonnanstine. When Price was called up all indications were that he was being called up for good. Many a young pitcher have been ruined by constant shuffling between the majors and minors Given the maturity he’s displayed so far that is unlikely, but no one can tell how players will react to demotions. He may be struggling (23 hits and 18 walks in 26 innings), but there have been flashes of improvement.

Sonnanstine is a bit more of an enigma. He has a bloated ERA of 6.65, but he is tied for second among starters in wins with 5. He’s been knocked out of games in the second inning (Baltimore) and the third (Cleveland), but he’s also pitched seven innings against the Yankees twice. His propensity to give up the long ball may be his undoing. He has given up 14 in just over 70 innings pitched. As the summer heats up the balls are going to keep flying out in visiting parks. Baltimore, Boston and New York aren’t friendly parks when it comes to pitchers keeping it on the right side of the fence.

So he loses his spot in the rotation. Does that mean he also loses his spot on the roster? How effective will he be coming out of the bullpen, and what role will he have? Lance Cormier has done a fine job as the long reliever and Andy doesn’t have the fastball that teams look for in a set up role. Which reliever is demoted. Chad Bradford isn’t far from returning either, that’s another roster spot. Joe Maddon certainly has a plan even if it’s not one that everyone agrees with. The joy of Maddon is that he always has plenty for the afternoon radio guys to discuss.

Kazmir needs to make sure he has everything straightened out as well. The team can’t afford for him to struggle coming out of the gate, having him only able to go 4 or 5 innings will put too much stress on an already beleaguered bullpen. Last year he was nothing short of amazing following his return from the DL, getting off to a 5-1 start. The Rays could use that type of performance if they want to claw back into this race.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quick Hits - Game 7 Style!

Some random notes while I enjoy not working in Baltimore instead of the Tampa Bay area:

Congrats to the Penguins. The national media wrote them off after game two and game 5. Nice to see Fleury bounce back with a great game in Detroit. Game 7 reminded me a lot of the Bolts game 7 in 2004. Check out the similarities:

1. 2-1 game. Both the Bolts and Pens had 2-0 leads cut in half in the third period and held on to win.

2. Scorers - Ruslan Fedatenko and Max Talbot both tallied two in their teams wins.. Not exactly Crosby, Malkin, Lecavalier and St. Louis lighting the lamp, but it shows how important secondary scoring is to winning a cup.

3. Key Saves - Marc-Andre Fleury hurling himself across the goal crease to make one final save was eerily similar to the pad save Nik Khabibulin made on Jordan Leopold with about 3 minutes to go in the Lightning game.

How about the ad wizards for Gatorade? I remember seeing this commercial earlier in the season. I'm sure Sidney is much happier to be in this picture.

Congratulations to my buddy Link. As a Pittsburghian he's enjoying quite the memorable sports year. A Super Bowl trophy and a Stanley Cup. Oh yeah and he's getting married to be a pretty cool girl as well. Now only if the Pirates can win the World Series.....

Now the real offseason fun can begin. Already, there are rumors of Chris Pronger being traded to Los Angeles, Danny Heatly joins Vinny as a highly paid offensive players on the trading block, the Coyotes, Canadians and Panthers could all have new ownership groups by the time the puck drops in the fall, and finally who gets Tavares?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Milestone Achieved!

On one hand I didn’t think I would ever get here. On the other I can’t believe it took this long. After all, some bloggers seem to post 100 times in a week. I ,on the other hand, took roughly 28 months to get to the century mark. I have a feeling the next 100 won’t take so long.

As I’ve approached this minor milestone I’ve been wondering a lot as to why I do this. It’s not making me any money, it takes away from time I could be looking for a real job, and when I look back at some of the things I wrote some of it’s not really written that well. Hopefully, there has been some improvement, however, I will never get the hang of commas. I tend to just throw them in there at random times, especially if I haven’t used one in a while.

So why do I do this? I guess because I like it. I had originally started the blog to point out the absurdity of following sports in an area where 80% of the populations seems to be from somewhere else and bandwagon fans are not only welcome, but encouraged. I live in a market where afternoon sports radio is dominated by one person and has been for the last 16 years. I live in a town where a surprisingly large amount of people think Mike Alstott deserves to be in the hall of fame. I live in a town where Vincent Lecavalier and newest Buc Josh Freeman can walk around unnoticed.

I wanted to point out how uncultured and ignorant the every day fan is down here. And while I still believe that, I find myself only pointing it out in extreme circumstances. Dwelling in that type of negativity, boosting my own ego by pointing out the flaws of others wasn’t my style. How could I make fun of all the 8 games a year Red Sox fans when I cheer for both the Rays and the O’s. I was no different then them. Although, I will point out that when I attend an O’s / Rays game I remain neutral. Well, mostly neutral.

So instead of writing about the failings of others I decided to write about the teams I like. I tend to be pro-team when I write. There is enough bashing of owners and management out there already. I like to think that the people that run these teams know what they’re doing, unless they’re named Len Barrie.

Another boost was writing about card collecting and rediscovering the fun of trading cards with other people, some thing I hadn’t done since I was about 9. It was kind of odd that the first trade that I pulled off was with someone who lived in England, but since then I’ve discovered the joy of receiving padded, yellow envelopes from all over the U.S.

What will the next 100 posts bring? Hopefully, it will bring a Stanley Cup run for the Lightning, a Premiership title for Liverpool, another Super Bowl for the Ravens and a third place finish for the O’s (my optimism only goes so far).

Some random thoughts about the first 100 posts:

Thing I’m most proud of:

If you type “Toe Nash” into Google my post from January of 2008 is the first hit.

Favorite Posts to Write:

The reviews of my preseason prognostications. Man am I bad at predicting stuff. I am the Max Kellerman of the blogging world.

Things I’ve Learned:

Readers will not magically appear. You have to get out there and talk with the people. Exchanging site links with other writers is the best way to get your blog out there.

Write my post. Walk away. Come back and re-work it from there. I found my posts were exponentially better once I started doing that.

There are a lot more O’s fans out there than I originally thought. I knew a lot of people would be looking for Rays cards based on their recent success, but I figured the O’s would be nice and lonely. I’m glad to see that folks like Beardy, Chris and Kevin are around bleeding the black and orange.

One minor change. I’ve dropped the tremendously awkward handle of “Costanza’s Brother”. It was a stupid reference to Seinfeld and way to long to type out. Everyone I trade with knows me as Justin G., so I figured I would simplify life and just go with that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's Summer Time Here in the TBA and That Means One Thing

It's time for the RED TIDE!

Not the Crimson Tide, there will no rolling of the Tide.

I'm talking about red tide. As defined by the Internet's Great Book of Knowledge (Wikipedia), red tide is defined as, ahem:

a common name for a phenomenon more correctly known as an algal bloom, an event in which estuarine, marine, or fresh water algae accumulate rapidly in the water column.

Now I'm not sure what all that means, but I know it results in a lot of dead fish washing up on the beach. A lot of people blame the algae bloom on farmers whose pesticides was off into the Gulf of Mexico, but those people would blame the Kennedy assassination on farmers if they could.

What does that have to with this blog? Well, not much. I am, however, launching my own version of the Red Tide. Instead of innocent fish, my victims will be innocent bloggers who trade with me.

The first victim, Chris over atSac Bunt . Victim number two will be John Across the Pond (as soon as I find his address again). So be warned all ye who dare enter the trading waters with this post!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mail Call!


Would rather find the following in the mailbox:

(a) Jury Summons
(b) Credit Card Bill
(c) Yellow Padded Envelope from Wax Heaven

I think we all know what the answer to that one is.

As a quasi player collector I was lucky enough to get Carl Crawford’s name in Mario’s Card Directory. For those of you not familiar, Mario is quite the focused collector. When he breaks a set and doesn’t get a current Marlin lefthander or a former home run hitting, needle injecting, tell-all-book writing slugger he gives the rest of cards away.

As I mentioned I have Crawford’s name so I was excited to find out which cards were in the package that my fellow Floridian sent north.

Here are some highlights:

The Crawford collection increases by four. Oddly enough I also needed the Heritage and the base Topps for the sets I’m trying to put together. I have zero luck when it comes to pulling Crawford’s from packs.

Above are the favorites from the rest of the cards that Mario was generous enough to throw in. Pat Burrell gets team checklist duties in his first appearance in a Rays uniform in an Upper Deck set. Fernando Perez, the Rays resident aspiring gets a Bowman rookie card. Hopefully, he should be on the mend soon and back in the line up. Carlos is shiny, I can see why people enjoy the Topps Finest set.

That’s it for now. Thanks Mario!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Yes Virgina, There Will be Another 300 Game Winner

OK. Normally, I give the so-called experts the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that they know what they’re talking about. However, over the last few weeks a certain proclamation has been spouting up on the internets and on TV. It is one sentence and it has been repeated ad nauseum – “We Will Never See Another 300 Game Winner”.

Really? Never, as in ever? That just smacks of hyperbole and sortsightedness. Is Randy Johnson the last 300 game winner that we will see for awhile? Yes, but to say that no one will ever do it in a major league uniform ever again is ridicules.

I find it humorous that the first person that the talking heads point to is Jamie Moyer as their proof that Johnson is the last pitcher that will make into the exclusive club. On the surface it may seem reasonable. After all, he is the next active leader in wins. The thing with Moyer is, well, he kind of sucked for a lot of years (15-35 from 1988-1991 and he didn’t pitch in 1992). It was so bad he even contemplated retirement. It’s a minor miracle that he got to 250 starts, let alone 250 wins.

What the naysayers are failing to take into consideration are the next generation of pitching stars that are beginning their careers or just entering their prime. Forcasting wins for young pitchers is a difficult thing because you never know what might trigger a decline in talant (see Willis, Dontrelle). Think back to 2001 when the Big Three in Oakland were setting the world on fire. Barry Zito is the only one pitching right now and despite some good outings he can't buy a win right now. Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson have battled injuries that have detailed potential hall of fame careers.

While major league history is rife with the failings and flameouts of can't miss winners there are two pitchers currently in the majors that have a more than average chance of reaching the hallowed ground of 300 wins - Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay.

Lincecum, the right-hander from San Francisco has already amassed 29 wins and he is a week shy of his 25th birthday. His teammate Johnson, who made his major league debut at the age of 24, had a total of 24 wins in his first three seasons. With about 2/3 of his 3rd season to go Lincecum has the edge in age and wins.

The young starter is most known for his rapid rise to the majors (less than a year from when he was drafted) and his twisting, whirlwind of a windup taught to him by his father. A former semi-pro player, Chris Lincecum studied the mechanics of pitching and taught his son the unique windup that helps the whip thin right hander generate a 98mph fastball.

His critics off that windup as a reason why he might not be able to continue his early excellence on the mound. It is a valid argument due to the degree of flexibility required in his unique wind up. As his body stiffens with age he might not be able to generate the amount of velocity as his body ages. At that point he would have to make the transition from power pitcher to one who relies on guile and experience.

Johnson’s period of domination ran from 1993 to 2002, in other words, from ages 29 to 39. He racked up an impressive 175 wins during that decade. That is even more impressive when you see that, due to injury, he only won 5 games in 1998.

That time frame coincides with most major league pitchers “figuring it out”. They no longer rely just on pure talent or ability, rather they learn how to work hitter, how to reduce pitch counts, and how to sustain a long career both physically and mentally.

A pitcher who is smack in the middle of that 29-39 age bracket is Toronto right-hander Roy Halladay. At 32 years old he is almost at the halfway mark with 140 wins as of the time this is being posted. Since the season he turned 29 (2006) he has 61 wins. He is on track for back to back 20 win season and seems to have put a lot of the arm troubles that plagues him early in his career behind him. He does have a lot of wear on his arm as he has logged more than 220 innings in a season 5 times. If he can stay healthy I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a run at the supposedly untouchable number.

Something else that may factor into both of their chases is the fact that right now both pitchers play for some pretty bad teams. How many games have they left that their bullpens have blown? In today’s era of free agency it isn’t hard to imagine either one of them moving to a new team, a team with a better offense or bullpen that makes their lives easier. After all, Johnson played for some bad Seattle teams and Tom Glavine played for some bad Braves teams at the beginning of his career.

There are some unobtainable records out there (Cy Young’s 511 wins and 749 complete games come to mind), but another member of the 300 club will happen, just not for awhile.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wasteland Hall of Fame Update

The Wasteland Hall of Fame might be small in numbers (only one person has been inducted so far) but it appears that it is strong. Michael Taylor was inducted last July and so far this season lived up to the honor.

Through 46 games this season with the Reading Phillies he is hitting an impressive .341 with 9 home runs and 10 doubles. He is getting on base almost 40% of the time and should hopefully continue his rise through the Phillies system.

We'll be keeping an eye on him down here, who knows maybe it's time to start searching for some rookie/prospect cards of the young slugger.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Get Ready for the Fun! The offseason is right around the corner...

Let’s talk about some hockey today, shall we? The clock is winding down on the season ( despite being down 2-0 I think the Pens still have a chance) and talk is starting to gear up for the draft. When you follow a team that has been as downtrodden as the Lightning have been the last few seasons it’s the best part of season. The draft is all about the future, and the future is all about hope.

For now it appears that management is leaning towards holding onto the second overall pick. Beleaguered GM Brian Lawton has made several comments over the past few weeks about building through the draft. Depending on the actions of the Islanders in front of them the Bolts could add dynamic young sensation Jonathon Tavares or rugged Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman. Critics and pundits across the North American continent agree that they can’t go wrong with either pick.

Should Tavares be available he would give Tampa Bay another young scoring threat on the front line. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine four 30 goal scorers (Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Vinny and Marty) on the team in seasons to come. Who needs defense when you have offense like that!

If the next offensive prodigy is scooped up by the Islanders, then that leaves the 6’ 6” defenseman from Sweden. The rugged defender has leapfrogged Tavares in several mock drafts based on his play last season with Modo in the Swedish league. He would leap to the top of the Lightning’s stable of young defenseman and form the cornerstone of what should be a formidable corps of blue liners. The comparisons to Nick Lidstrom have already started and playing among elite Swedes developed his game more than playing in juniors would have.

Drafting either player would cost them about $3 million a year by the time bonuses and base pay are done so it won’t be adding too much of a burden to the already taxed payroll. There is an outside chance that drafting Tavares would signal a trade of Lecavalier if they can find the right package for him which would open up the payroll for free agency. Finding a team with the cap room to absorb Vinny’s almost $8 million price tag and that has the right NHL ready prospects is a challenge.

They would also have to be certain that they would be able to draft Tavares. I don’t see them moving Vinny without having a marketable star to replace him. So trading the Lightning captain this summer seems unlikely. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be shocked to see a big name move from the roster, possibly along with the number one pick.

Everyone down here likes dismissing the Canadian media down here, even if they end up being right about certain things (John Tortorella’s departure and Dave Andreychuck’s dismissal being two that I can think of off of the top of my head). One of the bigger stories of late has been Toronto’s desire to move up far enough to snag Tavares. That means grabbing they Lightning’s or the Islander’s pick.

Would Brian Burke be willing to part with prized defenseman Luke Schenn and his number one pick for Ryan Malone and the Lightning’s number one? Would the Lightning move Malone and the pick for just the Toronto pick (number 7 overall)? There are rumblings that Malone is extremely unhappy in Tampa and would be willing to accept a deal that got him out of here.

For their part, both Burke and Lawton have denied trade talks with Burke stating that trading Schenn to move up 5 sports “doesn’t make a lot of sense”. Of course, they are GM’s so half of their job description is lying to the press. The other half is to make their team better, sometimes by pulling the trigger on big deals.

Malone is an interesting trade piece. He has a cap hit of $4.5 million which isn’t that bad, but it’s stretched out until 2014-15 which is quite a long contract. Who knows what the NHL will look like by then? Malone scored 26 goals last season despite missing 12 games with injuries. He also ended up a +4 on a defensively deficient team.

He’s in his scoring prime right now and matches up well with deft passing centers and wingers who take a lot of shots. He is most adept at parking himself in front of the net for deflections and rebounds. Losing him would be big for the Lightning as they don’t have someone to replace him. Evgeny Artyukhin is a large human, but he doesn’t like the play in front of the net.

Would Malone fit on the Maple Leaf’s squad? That depends on what else Burke tries to do in the off season, but I’m sure they could find a spot for him. Would Lightning fans riot over moving Malone and the first round pick without getting a player in return? Probably not, after all it’s hard to riot when you’re surrounded by some of America’s best beaches and golf courses. The usual rabble would ensue, some teeth would be gnashed, threats of cancelling tickets would be made, but in the end I think the uproar would be mild. I doubt it would help season ticket sales, but one could argue that it makes the team better.

Making the trade can be defended. For starters, there could still be impact offense available at the 7th spot in Brayden Schenn (Luke’s brother) and Evander Kane. Shedding Malone’s contract makes it easier to keep Vinny around. Of course, it would all hinge on the Islanders taking Hedman first over all so the entire argument could be moot.

No matter what happens the next month should be exciting for the team and what remains of it’s fan base. So stick around, if there is any breaking news I’ll be sure to let you know about it well after it happens.