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Lightning talks to Cullimore
The defenseman who helped Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup says he's open to returning.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published July 15, 2007
He still has a home in Apollo Beach. His cell phone number still starts with 813.
In that regard, a return to the Lightning by defenseman Jassen Cullimore would be an easy fit.
"It's an absolutely perfect fit," agent Roland Thompson said of his free agent client. "He'd like to come back to Tampa, and we've had some discussions. If the opportunity came, it would be his first choice."
The Cullimore inquiry is part of what general manager Jay Feaster said is an ongoing organizational debate about how to fill out the roster.
"The biggest question now," he said, "is whether we're going to have a veteran defenseman as a sixth guy. Or do we bring in the depth guys we've signed and our own kids and let them compete and if we still feel we need something during camp, see what the waiver wire brings or what may still be out there as far as free agency."
The top five defensive spots are set: Dan Boyle, Paul Ranger, Filip Kuba, Shane O'Brien and Brad Lukowich. Waiting to compete for the final two are Dan Jancevski, Bryce Lampman, Jay Leach, Matt Smaby and Vladmir Maholik.
Free agent Nolan Pratt is still available, and Cullimore, 34, with the Lightning from 1997-2004, is at least intriguing. He knows the system and at 6 feet 5, 240 pounds can be physical.
Cullimore signed with the Blackhawks after helping Tampa Bay win the '04 Cup and last month was traded to the Canadiens, who bought out the last season of his contract.
Cullimore will get $1.25-million from Montreal two-thirds of his $1.9-million salary. He likely would ask his new team to make up the $650,000 difference.
But with $42.34-million of a $44-million payroll budget already committed and forward Ryan Craig still unsigned, Feaster probably doesn't want to pay much more than the $475,000 league minimum.
"It's a tough puzzle for him to piece together," Thompson said. "A lot of this may have to sit for a bit until they sort through it and see what's what."
"Obviously, I'd love to come back," Cullimore said. "There's always a place in my heart for Tampa with my wife and family."