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Weekes' agent: trade is answer

The Lightning, though, is not keen on moving the backup goaltender.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 19, 2002


TAMPA -- Agent Paul Theofanous said he thinks his client, Lightning goaltender Kevin Weekes, should be traded.

He has made that clear to general manager Rick Dudley. Weekes' playing time has been cut since the team acquired Nikolai Khabibulin.

Though his preference has not become a demand, Theofanous was further convinced after Weekes sat out back-to-back games last weekend, and Tuesday was pulled after two periods against the Devils with the Lightning winning 4-3.

"Kevin is a good soldier and he's here to help," Theofanous said from his New York office. "But ultimately, nobody is letting him help. ... There is no excuse for the way the coaches have handled this."

Weekes, 26, played 117 games the past two seasons, 61 for the Lightning in 2000-01. He has played 12 this season -- just four of the past 21 -- but performed well with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts. Theofanous said the numbers indicate the Lightning could get something worthy in return.

"At the end of the day," he said, "do you really need to have a goalie playing what may end up being just 15 games? And not only having him sit there, but also to end up paying him a good wage to sit there?

"It doesn't take creative thinking to come to the conclusion that the asset could be better utilized in some other fashion."

Dudley said it is a complicated equation.

"The team's position is he is one of a very good tandem of goaltenders, and we don't want to trade him," he said. "I have told Kevin if he wasn't going to play that I would look to do something with him, but I was never, under any circumstances, going to give him away."

While Tampa Bay is in the playoff hunt, Weekes offers security against a Khabibulin injury. The market for goalies seems dead right now but things may heat up before the March19 trading deadline.

"If we could make our team significantly better by trading him, we would consider it," Dudley said.

Weekes, who signed a two-year, $2.7-million deal over the summer, said his situation will not affect his focus or effort.

"This is my team," he said. "These are my teammates. I'm here to play as hard as I can and as well as I can."

Of being replaced by Khabibulin against the Devils, he said, "I don't really see it being my place, and I don't want to put any energy into, offering an opinion about something I had no control over."

Coach John Tortorella said it was purely a hockey decision. He said he considered pulling Weekes 4:22 into the second period after what he thought was a bad goal made the score 4-3. "Weekesie just didn't look like himself," Tortorella said. "I hate taking goalies out in the middle of a period. You want to show them a little respect, but you have to make decisions about what is best for your team. And sometimes, that's not what's best for the individual.

"At that point in time we wanted to give Nik those 20 minutes. And as the third period unfolded, that was probably the best 20 minutes I've seen Nik play for us this year."

Khabibulin was spectacular, stopping 20 of 21 shots, and the Lightning won 5-4 in overtime.

Still, Tampa Bay television analyst and former Flyers goalie Bobby "The Chief" Taylor said, other than for injury, lifting a goalie who is ahead is rare.

"I don't think I've ever seen it," he said.

Taylor said it also can create a confidence problem in a goaltender who does not play often.

"Hindsight is easy to say what a great move it was," he said. "But who's to say Weekesie would not have been just as solid?"

"Decisions are made and second guessed all the time by players, by media, by anybody," Tortorella said. "They can do that and there's no getting around it. But coaches need to decide what's best for the team. I know it's hard for Kevin. But coaches can't please everybody. If you please everybody, you're going nowhere."

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