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 Vincent is no longer the hot name on the trade front having been replaced by disgruntled Dany Heatley.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.