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Q&A With Lightning Executive Vice President & General Manager Jay Feaster

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Last week we asked you, the fans, to submit your questions for Lightning Executive Vice President & General Manager Jay Feaster. Well, you responded in huge fashion!


Since it likely would have taken weeks for Jay to answer every question we received, we narrowed down the list of submissions a bit, but tried our best to make sure every topic was covered. Jay has graciously (and thoroughly!) answered many of your inquiries below.

Kyle Guthrie: Will you take Stamkos as the #1 pick, or will you go for a top-rated defenseman?

Jay Feaster: While we have learned in our business that we “never say never” in terms of trading our pick or going with one of the highly rated Defensemen available in this draft, it will take an incredible offer from one of our competitors to get us to trade the pick, and, given that our trades of Brad Richards and Vinny Prospal at the trade deadline weakened us offensively, we like the fact that the consensus #1 pick in this draft just happens to be a right-hand shot center.


Chris Krenn: What's Steve Stamkos going to be like? P.S., will you ever coach St. Stephen’s Basketball again?


In terms of what kind of player Steve Stamkos will be like, I invite you to check out some clips we have placed on our Lightning website to see his incredible skill and skating ability ( Stamkos is a dynamic player with excellent vision and great hands who sees the ice well and yet is also very responsible defensively. He can score goals but will also help set up goals. He “thinks” the game incredibly well, on both sides of the puck, and our scouts (as well as scouts throughout the sport) consider him to be a very “complete” player. (In terms of coaching St. Stephen’s basketball team, Chris, if I don’t get the Lightning turned around next season I may be applying for a full-time position at St. Stephen!)


Carlos Armstrong: Just want to make sure that we are going to pick Steve Stamkos. An undisputed #1 draft pick that is a sure lock to be a franchise player DOES NOT come around very often and when he does can we truly afford to be the team that passes him by? Can you assure us that the ONLY way possible you would trade down is if you are getting lets say a Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin-type player who is coming into their prime?


Just imagine where we would have been if we had not drafted Vincent Lecavalier in 1998. Speaking of Vinny, why have we not offered a 10-year contract extension that keeps him locked in Tampa Bay and offers a guaranteed retired number to the rafters?


As I said earlier, we have learned in this game that we “never say never” when it comes to trading. As Rick Dudley used to say, “If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, any player can be traded.” The same holds true for any draft pick. However, as indicated, it would take an incredible offer to pry that pick from us. By incredible I mean multiple young players who would help us win “right now” along with other draft picks or highly sought-after prospects who would help us long term. We truly believe that is the situation we are in with the first pick - there is a player available who can help us “right now” and who will also play for us for many, many, many years. In order to trade that away we would need to be receiving equal or greater value back.


Until the sale of the hockey team to Oren Koules and OK Hockey is finalized it is premature to begin negotiations with Vincent Lecavalier on a long-term deal. However, it continues to be my goal to ensure that Vinny spends his entire NHL career in a Lightning uniform and, along with hoisting additional championship banners to the rafters, that we also one day retire sweater #4.


Erin Emanuel: If we were to pick Steve Stamkos, in your opinion, which line will he be placed in and with which two forwards?


As you know, we lost our second line center when we traded Brad Richards to Dallas. While the lines will ultimately be determined by the coaching staff once camp begins, we currently envision Stamkos (assuming he is the pick) slotting into a second line center position and possibly having Jokinen on the left side with him.


Brian Tyburczy: If you do not get a great offer for the #1 overall pick and you decide to hang on to the pick and draft Steven Stamkos, do you believe that Stamkos will be able to make a big impact on the Lightning team at the start of next season? Also do you believe he could be the replacement at center on the second line where Brad Richards used to play?


Again, we envision Stamkos as being a second line center at present, and our scouts do believe that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL next year. Having said that, it is important that we exercise some caution here because we should not expect him to walk in and score 40 goals and record 100 points. The good news in Tampa is that unlike the situation that Vinny Lecavalier walked into as a 1st pick overall in 1998, there are other “star” players on our roster now who can help lead and show Stamkos the ropes. That will be a big advantage for him as he can come in as part of the group and not have to worry about “carrying” a team immediately.


Jimmy Lin: I really like the Halpern line this year. I feel like they give the Lightning toughness on the forecheck and the ability to complement the scoring with Lecavalier's line. With the addition of Stamkos (assuming he would start the season with the team) what role would he play with Halpern centering the second line?


One of the important things for us as we move forward this off-season is not getting overly hung up on second line/third line designations. The “Halpern Line,” for want of a better term, was phenomenal for us at the end of last season. Jeff playing with Mathieu Darche and Michel Ouellet was not only very productive in terms of forechecking and turning pucks over, but the line generated a ton of scoring chances and also capitalized on those chances. I can envision that line staying together through camp (assuming Darche agrees to re-sign with us). I could also see the coaches experimenting with perhaps a Ryan Craig on the left side. Again, those decisions will be made by the coaching staff after camp. However, one thing we MUST do if we hope to return to the success we previously enjoyed, we MUST start utilizing more than simply two top lines. So whether we call Stamkos the second line center or say it’s Halpern, we NEED three lines we can roll out there on a consistent basis and have confidence in them both offensively and defensively. That is our primary goal this off-season - providing three balanced and effective forward lines and a fourth line to provide energy and toughness.

Nicholas Pellicer: I would like to know if we have started maybe any talks with LA to switch our picks and maybe acquire Mike Cammalleri or Dustin Brown along with their #2 pick. I have heard some buzz that they would be willing to maybe move one of those guys. Can you commit on that?


I won’t comment on my discussions with individual teams. However, I would caution you not to believe everything you read in the blogs. I have read about my supposed trade talks in blogs when I haven’t even spoken with the GM I’m alleged to be trading with. Please be careful about thinking that just because someone in the blogosphere threw it out there to see if it would stick that it’s somehow something that is being discussed in reality.


Julius Clayton: What do you consider the team's most pressing need in the upcoming draft? Another front-line forward or a tough-minded defenseman?


We need to address our overall lack of secondary scoring throughout the organization. We started doing so in last year’s draft; however, most of those players are three to five years away from contributing in Tampa, and many of them will be first-year professionals next season. We previously drafted a number of defensemen and goalies, and while some of them have not worked out as we had hoped (Mike Egener, for example), others are going to play for us in time (Matt Smaby, Vladimir Mihalik,). The same is true of our goaltending. Gerald Coleman was part of the deal that brought us Shane O’Brien, and Karri Ramo continues to impress as a 22-year old goalie. All of this goes back to our need to restock the shelves on the top two lines and then fill-in behind that need.


Kieran Murphy: First I'd just like to say I'm grateful for what you have brought to this organization, and how far you've brought us since you got here.


My question is about the draft. It pretty much seems like we're going to choose Stamkos for our first pick. I was just curious as to why you wouldn't want to pick a promising defenseman such as Doughty or Bogosian, seeing that we had 267 goals scored against us this season. To me it just seems that defense should be more of a concern right now as opposed to offense. I'm not saying that picking Steve would be a bad pick at all, I'm just curious as to what the deciding factor is between the two.


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk with you. Although this season was unfortunate, I have faith we'll bounce right back next season. Thanks again and good luck!


Thank you for your very kind words and, more importantly, thank you for your support of the Lightning! As indicated above, we honestly feel that we have a number of defensemen who are going to play for us in Tampa. In addition to those named, we also believe Kevin Quick will play and this past season we were pleased to see Mike Lundin stick with the big club. The top D men in this Draft are VERY good! No question! However, with the trades of Richards and Prospal, and the lack of depth on the top two lines in the minors, we continue to believe that we need to address the top-six forward positions. Keep in mind that we currently project our blue line to include: Boyle, Ranger, Kuba, O’Brien, Picard, Lundin, Lukowich and Smaby prior to anything else happening this summer or in camp, so we feel pretty good about the group and the depth to start.


Victor Vid: Do you even consider selecting Russian LW Nikita Filatov, who stated that he would come to North America next year regardless of the league? He was the second-best scorer at WJC U20 this year with a +7 rating and now he is the best in scoring at WJC U18. Stamkos is a great choice, but he will be only #2 while Vinny is a Bolt.


With no IIHF Agreement in place and with no assurances that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation will participate in such an agreement were one to be reached, and given the fact that the Russian Elite League offers players a plethora of options to stay in Russia for big bucks, and given what we have already gone through with our own Evgeny Artyukhin in terms of how easy it has been for him to walk away from us to play in Russia, it is an INCREDIBLE risk to draft him with the 1st pick overall.


Bob Smith: How big of an impact do you think the first overall pick can have on this team?


As I said earlier, I think we need to caution against believing a youngster such as Stamkos can come in here and single-handedly carry the franchise on his back. However, we do have some quality rookies playing in the NHL this season and we are able to see how they have done and how they’ve done in an environment that may not be as deep as our own. We believe he will be a contributor and will only get better with time.

Gary Parkhurst: There has been a lot of talk about trading the first pick. In the current state of the NHL where young players are the backbone of solid organizations and are a financial certainty until they reach UFA, wouldn't it be smarter to select Stamkos and trade Dan Boyle? That move alone could save you $6 million per year and bring back a few NHL players while creating salary cap room and lowering the age of your roster. Thanks for your time.


Creating cap space isn’t a concern when the salary cap is projected to increase to $55m or $56m. In such a scenario the “floor” or the “minimum” a team must spend would increase to the $40m to $41m range. Keep in mind that the “ceiling” in 2005-06 was $39m. The problem with trading Dan Boyle is that we would be taking a legitimate top two D man out of our line-up, removing a player who has (until this year’s injury sidelined him) consistently been considered one of the top five to seven D men in the NHL the past few years, and we would be creating a hole in our line-up that we couldn’t fill very easily.


Jon Dove: I was wondering, as a half-season ticket holder since the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, why I should continue renewing my tickets? I drive from Clermont, about 160 miles round trip, to the games. With the price of gas it is becoming quite expensive to drive to Tampa. The reason I ask about continuing to renew my tickets is, with ownership up in the air, I don't see the ability to put a competitive team on the ice. I know it can't be expected to win a Stanley Cup every year, but I would like to see a team capable of at least competing every night and right now I don't see that.


We lost 20 games this past season by one goal. We melted down in the third period to give away, I think, 12 points and rallied from second period deficits to gain only 2 points for a net minus of 10 blown points. While I realize we are 30th in the league, we are not as bad as that number 30 makes it seem. To a player, I had guys telling me the same thing in our exit meetings. We are not that far away and I thought we played some very good hockey (albeit without always winning) following our trade deadline deals. The new owners want to win. They are hockey fans. They are passionate about the game. They played the game; they follow it on TV and in person. Oren Koules attends and watches as many junior and college games as some members of our scouting staff. We are all committed to winning and that is why we do what we do. You can’t win a Cup, as we did in 2004, and not want to do it again and again and again. That desire drives everything we do. We are not that far away, we know what holes we need to fill and we are committed to filling them. I encourage you to stay with us because we will once again be a dynamic, exciting, championship caliber hockey team.


Chris Miller: Is there going to be more opportunities for meeting players and getting autographs next season? Fan/player interaction has really dropped over the years.

I wish I could agree with you on that topic, but I find that one hard to believe. I have been here now for 10 years and it sure doesn’t feel as though fan/player interaction has dropped. What’s most interesting is that if you were to ask our head coach, he would tell you that we continue to do “too much” and we take the focus of the players away from the game and away from preparing for the games. I will ask our PR Department to prepare a list of ALL of our player appearances this past season and maybe we can post it somewhere on the web site. We may not do a good job of letting everyone know where guys will be and when, but I KNOW for a fact that our guys are out there ALL the time!

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