tampabay.com

Trade winds haven't hit Lightning

By TOM JONES
Published March 3, 2006


TAMPA - Lightning general manager Jay Feaster is making calls. He is taking calls. He is talking. He is listening. But, so far, he is not wheeling and dealing.

With the NHL trade deadline Thursday, Feaster wants to make a move or two to improve the Lightning's lot. As of now, however, trade talks have not gotten too far.

"We have lines in the water, but there's nothing happening right now," Feaster said. "There's nothing imminent right now. Quite a few of the teams I've spoken with have talked about the fact that they still have four or five games left before (the deadline) and there's still a sentiment among any number of teams of, "Are we buyers or sellers?' "

In other words, too many borderline teams still believe they have a shot at the postseason and, if that's the case, they are unlikely to make a deal. For example, the Florida Panthers are rumored to be shopping center Olli Jokinen, but after Tuesday's blowout of the Lightning, they might want to wait. A few more wins might take Jokinen off the market.

That example is being played out all through the NHL. Teams won't start a yard sale until they are sure their playoff hopes are over.

Meanwhile, Feaster is on the lookout for a deal.

"We certainly want to improve our hockey club if we can," he said. "My preference would be to improve the club by addition without taking (anyone) from the room. We like the group that we have here so the extent to which we can improve on what we have without having to take away, that's our No. 1 objective."

That means the Lightning would rather trade draft picks than players to acquire something. But Feaster is having a tough time doing that.

"Thus far, there has not been a real sentiment to move players for draft picks," Feaster said. "People want bodies back."

The Lightning needs a body, specifically one that plays defense. The Lightning can add a player who is making as much as $3-million and, if it does make a deal, it will be for a defenseman. The Lightning has used, essentially, six defensemen all season and fears an injury or two would create a gaping hole.

"First off, we're happy with the six that are playing; we feel we have six really good defensemen," coach John Tortorella said. "(But) I think we need more depth there."

That was evident when the Lightning lost Pavel Kubina for two games this season and then lost Darryl Sydor for two games in late January. "I thought that really exposed the lack of depth," Feaster said.

Tortorella said, "We got some young (prospects) we feel are going to play in this league, but they're not ready."

When the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, a key move late in the season was picking up Sydor. In addition, Nolan Pratt, as the team's seventh defenseman, stepped in because of injuries and ended up playing well in 20 postseason games. The Lightning would like to have such insurance again.

Then again, if nothing happens, Tortorella and Feaster said they like their team.

"But as far as the blue line," Feaster said, "if we don't add any depth there, we better be lighting more candles than we have been lately."