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Lecavalier wants a trade

Lightning GM Rick Dudley admits it's true, and if a deal makes sense, he'll make it.

photo
[AP photo]
Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (4) loses the puck between Columbus Blue Jackets' Grant Marshall (29) and Radim Bicanek, right, during first period action Thursday at the Ice Palace.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 7, 2001


Lightning general manager Rick Dudley said Thursday that center Vinny Lecavalier, through his agent, Kent Hughes, has asked for a trade.

It is the first time either side has acknowledged Lecavalier wants a fresh start with another team, prompting Dudley to accept offers for the 21-year-old center, the No. 1 overall selection of the 1998 draft.

Dudley said there are 15 teams actively pursuing Lecavalier and "six to eight serious players."

If a trade is going to happen, Dudley said it could be soon.

"I can say I'm going to try to expedite matters," he said. "The last two days, I've been trying to cut it down to a workable number of teams that have interest."

Dudley said the trade request came about two weeks ago.

"There were a couple of concerned phone calls and then (Hughes) said, "I think it would be better if Vinny was someplace else,' " Dudley said. "I said what I would do is explore trades. I didn't promise a trade. I said, "It would take a hell of a lot to make us do something and I'll explore it.' There were two weeks of talks and not a peep got out, and, unfortunately, what happened, happened."

What happened is the word got out through an out-of-town leak, setting off a firestorm of speculation as to where Lecavalier would be moved.

Teams mentioned as having the most interest: the Devils, Senators, Flyers and, to a lesser extent, the Oilers, Blackhawks and Avalanche.

Dudley said he never made a trade offer, but called teams and said, "If you are interested call me." Dudley said he received calls from every team.

Lecavalier has struggled this season. He had three goals and seven assists in Tampa Bay's 28 games, and had not scored in 11 straight. That lack of production in coach John Tortorella's system is thought to be a major concern for Lecavalier, as well as the loss of his captaincy and playing time.

He also has not responded well to Tortorella's "tough-love" approach that can be confrontational and has created some tension between coach and player. Hughes declined to comment. And Lecavalier said after Tuesday's win: "I told myself I wasn't going to talk about it."

Dudley said he knows people "will leap to the assumption it's his relationship with the coach" that prompted the trade request, "but I believe there is more to it than that."

He declined to elaborate but indicated Lecavalier's relationship with Tortorella is a factor.

"It's one thing to have a Peter Bondra who's at odds with his coach because he's scored 50 goals and accomplished a certain number of things in the NHL. He's not going to lose confidence," Dudley said. "A young player in the same circumstances does, and that can be very damaging."

Trading Lecavalier, whose skills demand he be thought of as a potential superstar, could bring a windfall for the Lightning, which is looking for immediate help in a scoring wing and a top-four defenseman.

But Dudley reminded, "We're not going to trade Vinny unless the deal makes sense."

A trade that seemed to make sense, as far as the media were concerned, was Lecavalier to the Devils for centers Bobby Holik and Jason Arnott and wing Scott Gomez, or any combination thereof.

But Dudley said he has not spoken to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello about any players as part of a Lecavalier trade. With that in mind, Dudley said he believes someone began the rumor to knock the Devils off their game.

"A couple of teams at the top of the Eastern Conference wouldn't mind seeing the Devils disrupted," Dudley said. "Because of the specific players, there can't be any other motivation."

Dudley said the idea was to get the players thinking about things other than hockey. Mission accomplished as all three had to answer media questions leading up to Tuesday's game with the Lightning about the possibility of a trade.

"If that's your motivation," Dudley said, "you have succeeded in a despicable way.

Dudley would not say who he thought started the rumors, but said, "I'm not demanding any action (from the league), it's just very disappointing because I would say 95 percent of the GMs are quite honorable when asked to keep things confidential. Somewhere things that happen at meetings and things that go on seem to find their way into the media."

Like the Lightning listening to offers for Lecavalier.

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