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Dudley listening, but has not made 'offers' of Lecavalier

''It will have to be a monumental deal for it to happen,'' Lightning GM says of dealing 21-year-old center.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 3, 2001


"It will have to be a monumental deal for it to happen," Lightning GM says of dealing 21-year-old center.

NEW YORK -- The first question has been answered. Vinny Lecavalier can be traded.

General manager Rick Dudley is listening to offers and Kent Hughes, the agent for the 21-year-old center, reiterated Sunday that he would not be surprised if his client were moved.

Regardless of whether Lecavalier has asked for a trade (and Dudley said he has not), the bigger question is, will he be traded?

"All I want to say is that I have listened to people," Dudley said. "Have I made offers to people? No."

Any trade of Lecavalier, whose skills demand he be thought of as a potential superstar, would have to bring extraordinary returns that would help Tampa Bay immediately.

Dudley said the speculation about a deal being imminent is "B.S."

"Anything that has been said to me about Vinny Lecavalier, it's going to take a heck of a lot more than that," he said. "It will have to be a monumental deal for it to happen."

Hughes said that since the original story broke that Lecavalier is unhappy in Tampa (a story that has gained credibility), he is sure "there have been lots of teams that have inquired. There is no doubt there have been discussions."

Hughes said he was not aware what teams could be in hottest pursuit. The most often mentioned are the Devils, Senators and possibly Flyers.

New Jersey, which scouted the Lightning Saturday against Philadelphia and Sunday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, is rumored to be talking about some combination among forwards Scott Gomez, Bobby Holik and Jason Arnott.

A possible Senators deal could include center Radek Bonk and defenseman Chris Phillips, a former overall No. 1 pick Dudley likes a lot.

A deal with the Flyers would be more problematic. The team has many high draft choices to offer, but Tampa Bay would need a tangible payoff for dealing the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft.

The Flyers likely would not part with All-Star Simon Gagne, an obvious target. Right wing Justin Williams and left wing Jan Hlavac might be more attainable.

Whatever the scenario, there is a sense Lecavalier would not mind a fresh start with a new team, especially after Hughes said Saturday he has made Dudley aware of "concerns over the way things have been going."

Those concerns are thought to be Lecavalier's loss of ice time (about two minutes a game off last season), his lack of production in coach John Tortorella's system and the loss of the captaincy.

Lecavalier said he would not let the situation affect his play.

"Of course not," he said. "It's in the back of my head because I hear so much about it, but I'm not going to let it distract me. The most important thing for me is to play well and help the team."

After missing training camp and the first two games of the regular season with a contract negotiation that ended with a four-year, $10.2-million deal, Lecavalier has struggled offensively.

Going into Sunday, he had 3 goals and 7 assists in 23 games and had not scored in his past eight. That's a 35-point pace.

Dave Andreychuk said while the trade of any player would affect a team, the buildup is not a distraction.

"I don't think it affects the players like people think it would," the left wing said. "Over the years you get a leather skin against it. It happens and it's happened to everybody."

Tortorella said the rumors will not change how he does business.

"It can't," he said. "This coaching staff and this team are worrying about the New York Rangers and then the team the next night. ... We're worried about the team."

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