Dingman done, with more moves possible

Published December 29, 2005

TAMPA - Lightning general manager Jay Feaster wants to make one thing clear: he isn't blaming forward Chris Dingman for the Lightning's inconsistent season. But he also made this clear: he isn't happy and changes could be coming.

Actually, they already started. The Lightning parted ways Wednesday with Dingman, who played in 74 regular-season games and 23 more during the playoffs when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04.

Dingman was placed on waivers and likely will clear them today at noon. As a courtesy to Dingman, the Lightning is giving him and his agent, Don Meehan, until Friday to negotiate with other teams to precipitate a trade. If nothing can be worked out by Friday, Dingman will be assigned to the Lightning's minor-league affiliate in Springfield.

Either way, his days with the Lightning are over.

"At this point, we don't project him fitting into the plans here," Feaster said.

Dingman, known for physical presence and fighting skills, was a healthy scratch in 22 of the first 37 games. His role became even more diminished after the emergence of rookies Evgeny Artyukhin and Ryan Craig. The move, however, wasn't easy for Feaster.

"This is a guy I traded for, this is a guy I like," Feaster said. "He has done yeoman's service for us and he won a Cup with us."

But when doing his midseason evaluation, Feaster realized the Lightning needs to improve and by parting ways with Dingman and sending rookie Darren Reid back to Springfield on Wednesday, the Lightning can add $1.4-million to the payroll. That number could increase as the season progresses.

"This gives us some flexibility to do some of the things that we may need to do," Feaster said."

What Feaster might need to do is make another big acquisition to snap the Lightning out of its streaky ways.

"I'm finished with the sentiment and expecting guys to produce and it doesn't matter who you are," Feaster said. "We're not sitting by idly. We expect more as a franchise and more as an organization. We need to step up as individuals and as a group."

THE REAL DISH: Feaster said he shopped Dingman before the season and again last week, but found no takers. Dingman, 28, came to Lightning with Shane Willis in a trade from Carolina for goalie Kevin Weekes in March 2002. He played in 154 regular-season games with the Lightning with three goals, 10 assists and 265 penalty minutes. He had no points in 15 games this season.

"I am disappointed to be leaving Tampa Bay, obviously," Dingman said. "We won a Cup together and I really enjoyed my time here. But now I want an opportunity to play in the NHL because I know I can prove myself and be an effective player every day."

NO. 1 TROUBLES: Andy Rogers, the Lightning's first-round pick in the 2004 draft, is in town and it isn't good news. A persistent left ankle injury will not go away and doctors back in Canada have suggested surgery. So the Lightning brought Rogers in Wednesday night for examination.

"It hasn't really gotten any better and it's giving out on him," Feaster said.

REID TO SPRINGFIELD: Reid's short stint with the Lightning ended after four games as he was shipped back to Springfield. He had no points, but impressed Lightning coach John Tortorella.

"He did well," Tortorella said. "Obviously with a young guy like that, if you're not going to be able to get him the minutes, you want him to continue playing (in the minors)."

MISCELLANY: The Lightning roster is again at 21. Forward Dmitry Afanasenkov was the lone healthy scratch. Montreal players Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins dropped the gloves and fought each other during the Canadiens practice Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum. Funny thing is they have been friends since childhood, having grown up on Long Island with one another. Both laughed off the incident after practice.