By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2001
For Rick Dudley, familiarity breeds contentment.
The Lightning general manager likes surrounding himself with those he has worked with before and players he has coached. People he knows.
Dudley knows Alexander Mogilny.
He coached the Devils sharpshooter in Buffalo his first three seasons in the league. Mogilny scored 84 goals in that time, including 39 in 1991-92. The two have remained close.
Mogilny scored 43 times for New Jersey this season, and added 40 assists. He is an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Lightning needs a sniper at right wing.
Is it such a stretch to surmise Dudley has thought about Mogilny in a Lightning uniform?
Dudley will not comment on Mogilny as a player because he doesn't want to be accused of tampering.
He did say, "I like Alex very much as a person. But I've never discussed Alexander Mogilny with anybody, including Alexander Mogilny."
There are caution flags.
Mogilny is 32 years old and made $5.2-million last season. That's a lot of cash to shell out for a player who had just 56 goals in his previous three seasons with the Canucks and Devils and suddenly came alive in the final year of his contract.
But assuming Mogilny won't pull a Vinny Castilla, bringing him to Tampa Bay might just make some sense; a lot more than the rumors swirling around the Stanley Cup final that have Dudley trading Vinny Lecavalier for Jaromir Jagr.
Pair Mogilny with pinpoint passer Brad Richards and who knows how many goals he can score. And a line of Richards, Mogilny and Fredrik Modin could be one of the league's most potent.
He also would give coach John Tortorella some flexibility. Maybe Tortorella splits Modin and Mogilny and puts one with Lecavalier.
Maybe we're debating a moot point. Maybe Dudley has no inclination to go after Mogilny or Jagr. Still, it is a good cost/benefit analysis.
The $15-million or so it likely would take to sign Mogilny for three seasons would serve Tampa Bay better than the $40-million it would take to get Jagr.
Figure it out. Jagr has $20-million left on the last two years of his contract. If trading for him is to make sense, the Lightning would have to lock him up for at least four seasons, which means buying out two years of unrestricted free agency that would begin after his current deal expires.
That means an additional $20-million, and probably more. It also would likely mean not filling some other holes and creating a new one with the loss of the richly talented Lecavalier. The captain had a horrible 2000-01 season but still scored 23 goals, and will be only 25 when Jagr's hypothetical Lightning contract would come up for renewal.
Okay, getting Jagr, 29, who when focused could be the game's best player, would mean immediate excitement, ticket sales and merchandising perks. But he is not the right fit for a team that needs a lot more than one player to become a legitimate and long-term playoff threat. And if memory serves, Jagr, playing with Mario Lemieux, mind you, contributed almost nothing in Pittsburgh's rollover to the Devils in the Eastern Conference final.
So what really looks better? Jagr's $40-million precluding the Lightning from picking up other valuable pieces. Or spending $15-million on a player like Mogilny, who, if Tampa Bay is serious about turning the Lightning into a long-term playoff threat, would at least leave it some options.
DOWNSIZING: Mike Liut said one of the things contributing to the Lightning's decision not to sign his client, 1999 draft choice Fedor Fedorov, might have been Tampa Bay's shared minor-league affiliate.
The Lightning and Coyotes will contribute 10 players each to the AHL's Springfield Falcons. That means 10 fewer slots for each team's personnel.
"I think not having a full affiliate impacts what they're able to do," Liut said.
"It had nothing to do with that," Dudley said. "It had everything to do with the fact he's asking for more money than what we deemed he was worth at this time."
Dudley said he "wouldn't be totally against" picking Fedorov again in this month's draft.