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Sign or miss season, GM says

Jay Feaster wants everyone in camp on time or he won't negotiate afterward.

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


Jay Feaster said he did not want to overdramatize, but there was no misinterpreting the hard line the Lightning general manager drew in the sand.

Feaster, mindful of the way a team can be disrupted by a player who misses training camp and irritated by the slow pace of some contract negotiations, said he will not negotiate with unsigned players after the start of training camp on Sept. 12.

"If guys aren't signed at the start of camp, they will not be signed," Feaster said. "We saw what happened with (Vinny) Lecavalier last year."

The Lightning center missed all of camp because of a contract dispute, "and there is no doubt in my mind that was one of the biggest problems to start the season," Feaster said. "He missed an entire training camp and never recovered."

"I've never seen a situation where a player sat the whole season and there were no negotiations from September forward," Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, said. "But Jay strikes me as the kind of guy who, if he says it, he'll do it."

The Lightning has 13 unsigned restricted free agents. The biggest without arbitration rights is left wing Ruslan Fedotenko.

Fedotenko, who scored 17 goals last season and made $450,000, has been offered a two-year deal worth $1.5-million ($650,000 next season and $850,000 in 2003-04) with several tiers of bonuses for scoring goals, beginning with 22, and the right to revise the contract in the second year if incentives are met.

Feaster said it is a "better than market deal."

Fedotenko's agents, David Schatia and Allan Walsh, could not be reached for comment.

Feaster acquired Fedotenko and two second-round draft picks last month from the Flyers for the No. 4 overall pick. Fedotenko is expected to play on the second line with Lecavalier.

Feaster was widely criticized for not getting enough in the trade, and he knows he will take another public relations hit if Fedotenko is not signed. It is a hit he said he is willing to endure.

"We're not nickel-and-diming and not being cheap," he said. "Just because we did this deal, we're not going to do something stupid in terms of the contract.

"We put something out there that's better than the market. If you think you can use the trade as leverage and beat me up in the media, so be it."

And if Fedotenko calls Feaster on his edict? "If we don't get a deal done and (Vinny) Prospal has to play second line, so be it," Feaster said. "I also believe there are going to be players via trade or free agency or the waiver draft that can help us. If I have a guy thinking of holding out and he won't be in camp, I will reallocate those dollars."

The basic message, Feaster said, is everyone get into camp.

"I think for the first time in a long time, we have depth and competition," he said. "We believe the offers we made are more than fair and reasonable.

"We're not trying to (burn) anybody. But if that's not enough for you, I would simply say, "Look around and tell me how it is you are indispensable.' "

Biron accepts deal

Gilles Lupien, agent for defenseman Mathieu Biron, said Biron accepted the team's qualifying offer of $962,000. The one-year, two-way contract pays $30,000 if Biron plays in the minors.

Biron, 22, highly regarded by the team, had four goals and nine assists in 35 games last season for AHL Springfield. He had no goals, no assists and was minus-16 in 36 games for the Lightning.

DINGMAN NEXT?: Don Meehan, agent for left wing Chris Dingman, said he expects a deal to be completed possibly in the next few days. It is believed Dingman is deciding between one- and two-year deals.


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