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Kubina, Lightning far apart

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2000


The Lightning and defenseman Pavel Kubina are far apart in contract negotiations.

How big is the gap? Think Grand Canyon.

The Lightning offered Kubina, its last unsigned player, a 100 percent raise, to $650,000 in base salary. Kubina's agent, Jiri Crha, said Tuesday he has proposed deals worth between $1.1-million and $1.7-million.

Lightning assistant general manager Jay Feaster said the team will not allow Kubina to participate in training camp, which begins Sept.7 at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, until a deal is struck.

"There is still an open line of communication, and we're still talking, and that's always a positive thing," Feaster said.

If Kubina, 23, does not sign, his options are limited. He can sit out the season, sign with a European team or court other NHL teams, which would have to give the Lightning draft choices as compensation. Kubina is a Group II free agent, however, which means the Lightning can match any offer, which it would be expected to do.

Crha said Kubina is working out with a team in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where he played as a junior and professional before coming to North America.

"That's a last resort," Crha said of playing overseas. "I think both parties will suffer if that happens."

Still, Crha said of the Lightning, "I want to see what this organization wants to do -- if they are serious about signing and holding on to Pavel and playing him and letting him be the guy they are expecting, or they don't care."

Feaster said Kubina is coming off an "entry level" contract, which reflected his status as a seventh-round selection (179th overall) in the 1996 draft.

Feaster pointed to six other Lightning players -- goaltender Dan Cloutier, defensemen Andrei Zyuzin and Kaspars Astashenko, and forwards Ryan Johnson, Dwayne Hay and Wayne Primeau -- who, like Kubina, are not eligible for arbitration but signed 10-percent, qualifying-offer raises.

Feaster said the Lightning offered to double Kubina's salary "to put him in a range that you see on this team right now."

Feaster said the Lightning likely will not increase its base salary offer, but will negotiate on individual performance bonuses.

Kubina had eight goals and 18 assists and was minus-19 in 69 games last season. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder tied Vinny Lecavalier with a team-high six power play goals.

Feaster said Kubina's biggest problem was acclimating to the greater defensive demands in coach Steve Ludzik's system.

"There's no question in our minds we believe Pavel can be a star player in this league, but the reality is, he's not at that level yet," Feaster said.

"He's practicing very hard," Crha said. "He's ready to go to camp or not go to camp. He will be ready for the season."

CALLING ALL COACHES: Ludzik and assistants John Torchetti and John Tortorella will host a cocktail reception for area hockey coaches at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ice Palace restaurant. The event is free. Call Lynn Wittenburg at (813) 301-6521.

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