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Whew! Fantastic news for the Lightning and for Lightning fans last night as defenseman Dan Boyle signed a new six-year contract that will lock him up through the 2013-14 season. It was starting to look like Boyle could’ve been headed out at today’s 3 p.m. deadline, so it was a huge move by Jay Feaster to get the deal done. Boyle drove to the St. Pete Times Forum late last night to officially sign on the dotted line. Lightning fans need to be appreciative of the fact that while it’s a huge deal financially, Boyle would have absolutely, positively garnered more on the open market as an unrestricted free agent this summer. He wanted to stay in Tampa Bay and he took less to do so. Solid!
In my opinion this was an absolutely necessary move for the Lightning as the team tries to reshape itself for the future. You can’t just dump one of the best defensemen/power play quarterbacks/skaters in the NHL. It would’ve taken years to recover from. The sharks in New York City, among other markets, were circling in the hopes of prying Boyle away from the Lightning.
The team also traded Vaclav Prospal last night, which isn’t a fun thing but it was a necessity. Jay Feaster needed to get the best deal he could for Prospal, who had every intention of testing the market this summer for the best deal possible. With his strong numbers this season he deserves a good contract, but the Lightning weren’t going to be the team to give it to him because of the need to sign Boyle and solidify the team’s goaltending. More Kudos to Jay Feaster for getting up-and-coming defenseman Alexandre Picard and a high draft pick for Prospal when he could’ve walked for nothing on July 1.
I’ll be back with more updates as deadline day progresses….
The Lightning have made the biggest splash at the trade deadline thus far, acquiring highly-touted goaltender Mike Smith, veteran center Jeff Halpern, left wing Jussi Jokinen and a draft pick from the Dallas Stars for Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist.
It’s hard for a team to part with someone who’s been such a large part of a successful time, as Richards was for the Bolts, but it seemed inevitable that one of the “Big Three” would eventually have to be traded. With a contract valued at $7.8 million a year, it seemed like it was inevitable that Richards was going to be the guy. That didn’t make the news any easier for Richards’ and Holmqvist’s teammates, who took turns discussing the deal with the gathered media after today’s 11 a.m. practice.
Lightning coach John Tortorella held court with the media later in the day, and he made it clear he plans to throw the team’s three newest members into the fire.
“You’re damn right, if he gets here,” Tortorella said when asked if Smith would play against Minnesota Wednesday night.
Tortorella said it’s tough emotionally for him to part ways with Richards, but overall he feels the trade is a good one for the franchise. He also made it clear this isn’t a fire sale.
“This isn’t waving a white flag; it’s about reorganizing and reshaping a team.”
Stay tuned in case there’s more. Thirty minutes left until the deadline…
Jay Feaster slid one more trade under the deadline today, sending underachieving winger Jan Hlavac to Nashville for a seventh-round draft choice in 2008. To me the trade means Hlavac wasn’t going to be re-signed in the summer, so why not add another draft pick? All told in the past two days, Feaster acquired three draft picks, defenseman Alexandre Picard, goaltender Mike Smith, veteran center Jeff Halpern and left wing Jussi Jokinen. That’s seven assets in exchange for four assets (Brad Richards, Johan Holmqvist, Vaclav Prospal and Hlavac), which is the kind of return the Lightning needed as the roster is re-shaped. And don’t forget Dan Boyle was locked up long-term.
Feaster spent quite a bit of time talking to the local media once the deadline passed, and it is clear that Smith was the focus of everything the Lightning wanted to do at the deadline. If he can step in and provide solid, dependable goaltending on a consistent basis the trade is a success. If Smith provides spectacular, game-stealing goaltending on a consistent basis, then the trade is an absolute home run.
Feaster said he expects Halpern and Jokinen to eventually settle in as third-line players for the Bolts, which indicates he plans to spend the summer acquiring a few top-six forwards. He also mentioned that a defenseman might be on the wish list as well. Picard, acquired from Philly last night, was assigned to Norfolk of the AHL but could get a shot in Tampa Bay soon. It’s also possible that a forward could be recalled to fill the slot Hlavac vacated, but it’s not necessary at this time.
Smith, Halpern and Jokinen spent the afternoon traveling from St. Louis (where the Stars are playing tonight) to Dallas to pick up some belongings before hopping on a 9 p.m. flight to Tampa. All three should be ready to go at tomorrow’s morning skate as the Minnesota Wild visit.