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Lapointe would consider signing with Lightning

So says the agent for Red Wings forward Martin Lapointe, a likely unrestricted free agent.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


So says the agent for Red Wings forward Martin Lapointe, a likely unrestricted free agent.

The agent for potential unrestricted free agent Martin Lapointe said this week that the Red Wings forward, who is coming off a career season, seriously would consider playing for the Lightning.

Gilles Lupien said Tampa Bay is "one or two players" from being a playoff contender, and that Lapointe, a right wing, would relish playing with centers Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards.

Another big plus: Florida has no state income tax.

"First of all, he doesn't hate Detroit, but I think he's ready to move to some other team if he has to," Lupien said from his office in Rosemere, Quebec. "I think Tampa would be a nice place for him to play, especially with Lecavalier and those guys."

Lupien might simply be trying to enhance his negotiating leverage with Detroit, which has said signing Lapointe is a priority. But Lupien insisted the Lightning could be in the mix.

"For sure," he said. "I don't see why not."

Lapointe, 27, would give the Lightning some much-needed grit and scoring punch, and he has the toughness general manager Rick Dudley covets.

The 5-foot-11, 208-pounder was Detroit's third-leading goal scorer, with 27, and was fourth on the team with 57 points. He also has a mean streak that earned a team-high 127 penalty minutes.

Lapointe has said he enjoys playing in Detroit, but Lupien said to keep those statements in context.

"His options are wide open and, for him, it's important to see what is out there. It's not always a question of money," he said.

Lapointe made a bargain-basement $1.25-million last season. He is expected to ask for between $3-million and $4-million.

That seems an unlikely amount for Tampa Bay to absorb, especially considering the $3.5-million it will pay goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and the contract to be negotiated with Lecavalier.

But Lupien certainly left the door open, even if it is, ultimately, just a crack.

"I think the player wants to be on a winning team in the future," Lupien said of Lapointe. "I think Tampa has a better future than some other teams, in my book, and they are young and they have the type of players that want to win. And everyone who knows Martin Lapointe knows he's a winner."

DRULIA ON NICKELODEON: Lightning forward Stan Drulia will host a two-hour block of Nick Gas on Nickelodeon at 5 p.m. today. The show focuses on games and sports for kids.

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