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Denis likely isn't going anywhere, GM says
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published June 22, 2007
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It seems more and more as if the Lightning's new goaltending situation will look a lot like its old one.
In fact, general manager Jay Feaster said Thursday that he expects Marc Denis will start training camp in a Tampa Bay uniform.
That's likely a head-scratcher for those who figured the Lightning would find a replacement for the goalie who last season struggled so badly he did not even dress for the playoffs.
But No. 1s are scarce, and with two years and $5.7-million remaining on Denis' contract, the logistics, and the math, apparently aren't working.
This has nothing to do with how the Lightning will start the regular season, Feaster said, adding, "I'm not ruling anything out as it relates to the goaltending situation or, more specifically, to Marc. At the same time, I'm not anticipating there will be any options in terms of trading a goaltender in our situation. So it is more than likely we will start camp with the three goalies we have," including Johan Holmqvist and Karri Ramo.
That seems to clear the way for Feaster to concentrate during the draft, which opens tonight with the first round at Nationwide Arena, on trading for a second-line forward or a fifth or sixth defenseman.
Feaster has said he is not interested in trading up in what is considered a weak draft. Tampa Bay's first of six picks comes in Saturday's second round No. 47 overall. That could fall to No. 75 if the Panthers claim 47. Florida has the option of that pick or a second-round choice in 2008 in the Chris Gratton trade.
The Lightning on Thursday claimed the 75th pick from the Ducks, who in last season's Shane O'Brien deal gave Tampa Bay the option of that or No. 91.
About trades, Feaster said, "I think there will be some opportunities. We've had conversations with teams. At the same time, if it's not there, we're prepared to step up and make the most of the talent that's on the board when we're picking."
But back to Denis, 29, acquired last summer from the Blue Jackets for Fredrik Modin and given a three-year, $8.6-million contract.
The team does not want to buy him out at two-thirds salary because, by rule, the money would be spread over four years (twice the remaining term of his deal) of the salary cap. The organization doesn't need dead money on the books while managing costs to help justify a $44-million payroll.
Feaster could, perhaps, trade Denis as part of a package with Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards or Marty St. Louis. But that would be considered only if Tampa Bay gets back a goalie that sets it up for, say, five or more years.
"Their greatest need is goaltending, and that's where the GM has to get creative," said Mike Brophy, senior writer for the Hockey News. "He has to figure outgoing forward, does he want to put the bulk of money (about $21-million cash) into those three guys, or does he explore the notion of trading one."
But Nick Kypreos, an analyst for Rogers Sportsnet in Canada and a former NHL player, said a motivated Denis might be worth another look.
"I want to see what kind of mental frame of mind he's in," Kypreos said. "I want to see what shape he's in, the look in his eye."
Feaster said he has "every expectation" Denis can rebound from a season in which his .883 save percentage was last among 44 goalies listed by the league and his 3.19 goals-against average 39th.
"He has reiterated he intends to come to camp ready to go and ready to prove he's the No. 1 guy," Feaster said.
Said Denis: "I want to be a Tampa Bay Lightning. I know I can make things right given the chance."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.