Monday, May 22, 2006

Bolts' Richards Re-Signed

This wasn't the news I was touting yesterday, but it will work until that other thing happens. Former Conn Smythe trophy winner, Brad Richards, was re-signed by the Lightning to a 5-year, $39M contract. Coming off the Cup-winning season, Richards led the team in points last season with 91 (23g, 68a) and led the team in points in their short-lived playoff season with 8 points (3g, 5a).

This puts the Bolts in an interesting position right now. Their salary commitments for the '06-'07 season now has 13 players under the cap with a $33.9M price tag on it. That includeds Dave Andreychuk getting his contract honored by the club, plus it has Sean Burke posing as the only going right now. The team has three players making only $5M (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Richards), which could mean that one of those guys will be on the move, or someone else on the roster will be moving.

Frankly, St. Louis is probably the prime candidate to move along. With his "affordable" contract and the fact both Richards and Lecavalier are the keystones in this Lightning team, St. Louis is probably free to move if the offer is right. However, I wouldn't count out GM Jay Feaster keeping those three and moving someone like Fredik Modin or Vaclav Prospal to not only help out their salary cap issues, but maybe to get some younger talent, not only in the deal, but also to put into the line-up from their minor league club in Springfield (MA).

It's been quite a turnabout for the Lightning. They go from Cup Champs to out in the first round in a swift five-game series. The team, as a whole, really underachieved with the new rules in place, plus it seems there could be a little shakiness when it comes to players-coach relations. There could be heat this summer in "Hockey Bay" and I don't mean from the sun beating down on the St. Pete Times Forum.

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