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Cloutier sent packing

The Lightning sends the goalie to the Canucks for defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a draft pick.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001


ST. LOUIS -- The Lightning pulled its second major trade in six days Wednesday, shipping goaltender Dan Cloutier to the Canucks for 27-year-old defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a second-round pick in this year's draft.

The trade was completed at about 4 p.m. but was not announced until late Wednesday.

Lightning general manager Rick Dudley had been talking to Vancouver general manager Brian Burke about this trade for some time.

"It's something that we felt we needed to do," Dudley said. "Burke got what he wanted, and we got what we wanted. Hopefully it's a win-win situation."

There was no doubt about the pieces one wanted from the other. Burke needed a goaltender to replace struggling Felix Potvin. Dudley needed a steady, veteran defenseman to help guide a talented but inexperienced group of back-liners.

So the swap of Cloutier, frustrated about a loss of playing time to Kevin Weekes, and Aucoin, who saw his playing time diminish under the strain of a strained relationship with coach Marc Crawford, seemed a natural. But it wasn't until Burke upped his offer to include a second-round draft pick instead of a third-rounder that the deal got done.

It was important for Dudley to get a good deal. He gave up the first pick in the 1999 draft to get Cloutier from the Rangers. He needed something significant in return.

"We held out for as good a deal as we could get," Dudley said. "And I think we did that."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Aucoin, whose 18 power-play goals in 1998-99 tied former Islanders star Denis Potvin for the most by a defenseman, was scheduled to fly to Tampa today for a physical and join the team Saturday in Boston.

He joins Matthew Barnaby, acquired Feb. 1 from the Penguins, as the newest Lightning players.

"I think we've improved quite a bit," Dudley said. "We've added a lot of leadership and tenacity. The power play got a lot better, and we got a real good defenseman. We think we're much better."

"I'm excited," Aucoin said. "I think it's great. We had a real young team (in Vancouver), and I'm going into a similar situation where things are really turning around."

For Cloutier, it is a chance to win a No. 1 job. He is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the Sharks as backup to 36-year-old Bob Essensa.

"It's definitely a fresh start," Cloutier said. "What's really exciting is we're in a playoff run, and that's what hockey is all about. That's what gets most players going."

Burke said Felix Potvin will either accept a 14-day minor-league conditioning assignment or be waived. When asked if Cloutier eventually will be the No. 1 goalie, Burke said, "We're not going to put a label on him. But given the assets we gave up, we expect that will happen."

Cloutier's position with Tampa Bay had been tenuous since early December, when former coach Steve Ludzik made Weekes the No. 1 goalie. Cloutier downplayed the demotion.

"The only thing that really bothered me was that some nights I thought I should have played, and I didn't," he said. "But that's part of hockey. Kevin Weekes had a great season, and it was tough to play me."

Cloutier's agent, Roland Thompson, was more to the point.

"He wasn't very enamored with the way he wasn't getting the opportunity to play," Thompson said. "I think he has upside potential in him that wasn't given the opportunity to flourish."

Still, Cloutier said, "I think I was given a fair chance. All the ups and downs made me a better goalie. I enjoyed Tampa. Everybody was good to me."

Aucoin has had his share of problems this season. He has 49 goals and 71 assists in 341 games, but as his defense improved (plus-13), his offense suffered. He was demoted to the third defensive pairing and the second power play unit.

"(Crawford is) one of those guys who demands a lot from his players and always wants more from everybody and won't be satisfied," Aucoin said. "I didn't find I had a good enough opportunity to do what he wanted me to do."

Aucoin will get every opportunity with the Lightning, which is desperate for a solid, veteran back-liner who can help the youngsters develop and lend a steady hand when they lose confidence and positioning.

"We had a pretty young team here, and I was the longest-standing Canuck on the team (six seasons)," Aucoin said. "I learned a lot from playing with Mark Messier (a Canuck from 1997-2000), so obviously, I can help out in that aspect."

Adrian Aucoin

SHOOTS: Right.

HT/WT: 6-2, 210.

BIRTHDATE/PLACE: July 3, 1973, Ottawa.

NOTES: Drafted 117th overall in 1992 by the Vancouver Canucks. Made his NHL debut (and scored his first NHL goal) on May 3, 1995, against the Sharks. After missing most of 1997-98 because of injury, played all 82 games in 1998-99 and scored 23 goals and 34 points. He recorded 208 hits and was named the Canucks' top defenseman and Unsung Hero. During the 1999-2000 season, scored 24 points and had 123 hits in 57 games. At the 2000 Canucks Super Skills event, won the hardest shot competition with a 100.7 mph shot. Played for Canadian national team in 1992-93 and 1993-94. In 1993 played for Canada's junior team and won a gold medal as an alternate captain at the World Junior Championships. In 1994 was member of the silver-medal Olympic team in Lillehammer. Works with children's charities. Resides in Ottawa.

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