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Lecavalier will sit out as camp begins

The restricted free agent and the Lightning are far apart on money.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001


BRANDON -- If you hoped for a quick resolution to the contract stalemate between the Lightning and Vinny Lecavalier, you are probably in for a disappointment.

The sides are still far apart on money with no resolution in sight.

"This could be a drawn-out situation," Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, said Monday. "Our hope is that it won't. We are committed to working in good faith to try to resolve it."

"I suppose if Kent is thinking that, then maybe it can be," general manager Rick Dudley said. "I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know what's in their head. I know what's in our head. We've tried to negotiate and put our position on the table. I don't know where it goes from here."

It becomes a training camp holdout today as players report to the Ice Sports Forum for two days of fitness testing.

After that, it's an open question. It is believed the Lightning started by offering the restricted free agent a three-year deal worth about $5.35-million. The starting point for Lecavalier's camp: two years, $6.3-million.

"I would love to be there with the guys," Lecavalier said. "Obviously I understood this summer there was a possibility of not going to camp. It's part of the negotiating landscape in the NHL. I guess I held out hope there would have been more of an effort to get it done."

Dudley said there have been discussions about a face-to-face meeting with Hughes this week, but nothing has been finalized. "If there is a chance of finding common ground, I'll meet with Kent any time anywhere," Dudley said. "If I thought flying to Yaroslavl, Russia, today and sitting down with Kent would do any good, I'd do it."

Lecavalier's teammates said they regret their 21-year-old captain will not attend the start of camp, but they understand hockey is a business and are prepared to carry on without him.

"It's just a matter of him working out a deal that he feels comfortable with," defenseman Cory Sarich said. "Guys have to think of the team but they have to look out for themselves first. We have to focus on the guys we have here and start getting the job done."

"It's too bad he's not here," left wing Fredrik Modin said. "But we can't stop playing just because Vinny's not here."

Lecavalier is in Montreal, where he will begin skating this week with college players preparing for their camps.

One thing that could bring this to a rapid conclusion is an offer sheet from another team. That always has been a long shot and Tampa Bay has vowed to match any offer Lecavalier signs.

Still, the Canadiens, Lecavalier's hometown team, suddenly have a huge hole at center because Saku Koivu was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. But reports out of Montreal say the Canadiens, who would have to compensate the Lightning for signing Lecavalier, are courting unrestricted free agent Doug Gilmour.

"What's unfortunate more than anything, from a personal standpoint, is that Vinny suffers," Dudley said of Lecavalier not being in camp. "He has the chance to work with a wonderful, wonderful coaching staff. This training camp was one I thought certainly could have gone a long way to help Vinny become what he ultimately will become."

"Hey, we've tried a number of different angles," Hughes said. "We will continue to work on our end to come up with a means of agreeing on a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning."

Until that happens, "We're not going to dwell on it," associate coach Craig Ramsay said. "It's not something to be talked about or thought about."

"We like the players we have. We hope Vinny and management come to common ground, but it's not something we can influence. We have a job to do and we are going to go do it."

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