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THN at the All-Star Game: Lecavalier, Bouwmeester address trade talk

Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks to the media during the media availability. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks to the media during the media availability. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

MONTREAL – Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Vincent Lecavalier doesn’t think he will be traded this season, but if he is, he hinted he would welcome a move to his hometown to play for the Montreal Canadiens.

“I don’t think so,” Lecavalier said when asked whether or not he thought the Lightning would deal him before the March 4 trade deadline.

But Lecavalier also stressed that when it comes to what the Lightning’s ultimate plans are for him, he doesn’t know much more than the media or general public. He did make it pretty clear, though, that Montreal would be the desired destination if he were to be dealt.

“If it were to happen to Montreal, I grew up here and I’ve always loved the Montreal Canadiens,” Lecavalier said. “It’s a great organization; it’s a great town. My family is from here, I’ve got a lot of friends here…of course Montreal. I’ve always said that I think for a lot of Montreal players it would be a dream place to come and play.”

Rumors have been circulating for weeks that the Lightning is considering dealing Lecavalier in an effort to conduct a total rebuild of a team that is in shambles. Lecavalier has an 11-year, $85 million contract extension that kicks in next season.

“In professional sports, you can’t predict the future,” Lecavalier said. “If it happens, it happens. I love being in Tampa. The coaching staff is great, the players are great and I really enjoy being there.”

Another Florida-based player who could very well be on the move by March 4 is Florida Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 1. Unlike the Lightning, the Panthers are in the thick of the playoff race and have an agonizing decision to make. It’s looking less and less as though Bouwmeester will sign an extension in Florida before unrestricted free agency, which puts the Panthers in an enormous bind.

Without Bouwmeester, the Panthers chances of making the playoffs this season are greatly diminished. But what if they finish one point out of a playoff spot and Bouwmeester bolts after the season anyway?

When asked if he’d like to play for a better team, Bouwmeester responded by saying, “Well, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to play on a better team. That’s just the way it is. Having said that, I think there have been a lot of improvements this year in Florida. We’re playing together and everyone is on the same page. We believe down there that we have a good team. I don’t think we get a lot of respect around the league because we haven’t had much success in the past.”

Bouwmeester said he’s not adverse to signing a contract extension, but certainly wasn’t about to make any bold proclamations about doing so.

“I’m (in Florida) today,” he said. “This year has been the best year since I’ve been there, in a lot of ways. There seems to be more stability there now and there really wasn’t for a few years. Those are the things you think about. But right now there’s not really a lot going on and we haven’t been talking a whole lot, I don’t think. I haven’t ruled anything out. Money isn’t always everything. I haven’t played in the playoffs and that’s obviously No. 1. Where that is, whether it’s Florida or not, who knows?”

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WHEW, THAT’S A RELIEF
You’ll be happy to learn that all four teams for the shootout competition in Saturday’s skills competition come under the NHL’s salary cap. Of course, they only have 10 players each.

The team with the highest payroll is Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s  ($6 million) squad, which also includes Milan Hejduk ($3.9 million), Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 million), Patrick Kane ($3.725 million), Joe Thornton ($7.2 million), Dan Boyle ($6.667 million), Jarome Iginla ($7 million), Thomas Vanek ($7.143 million) and Mike Komisarek ($1.7 million). They check in at $52.835 million.

Next is Henrik Lundqvist’s ($6.875 million) team, which also carries Stephane Robidas ($1.5 million), Andrei Markov ($5.75 million), Jeff Carter ($5 million), Dustin Brown ($3.175 million), Rick Nash ($5.4 million), Shane Doan ($4.55 million), Vincent Lecavalier ($6.875 million), Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million) and Keith Tkachuk ($4 million). Their payroll is $50.625 million.

The third-highest team is Tim Thomas’s ($1.1 million) squad of Alex Ovechkin ($9.538 million), Ryan Getzlaf ($5.325 million), Mike Modano ($3.45 million), Alexei Kovalev ($4.5 million), Mark Streit ($4.1 million), Evgeni Malkin ($3.834 million), Brian Campbell ($7.14 million), Eric Staal ($4 million) and Jay Bouwmeester ($4.875 million), which comes in at $47.862 million.

The bargain basement team belongs to Niklas Backstrom ($3.1 million) and also includes Sheldon Souray ($5.4 million), Zach Parise ($3.125 million), Ilya Kovalchuk ($6.4 million), Jonathan Toews ($2.8 million), Shea Weber ($4.5 million), Marc Savard ($5 million), Dany Heatley ($7.5 million), Patrick Marleau ($6.3 million) and Scott Niedermayer ($6.75 million). They barely crack the salary floor at $44.475 million.

Just thought you’d like to know.

The teams were selected out of a random draw by each goalie. The goalies were allowed to make a trade after the players had been picked and Thomas picked up Canadiens adversary Kovalev. He wisely hung on to Ovechkin, though.

“He’s my brother’s and my dad’s favorite player,” Thomas said.

OVIE BEING OVIE
 Speaking of Ovechkin, he was at his impish best during the media availability session Friday. He said he probably won’t throw any hits in the All-Star Game and when it was suggested that’s because Evgeni Malkin is on his team, he replied with, “Yeah, too bad.”

Ovechkin and Malkin, who were once friends, have a simmering feud both on and off the ice.

He was also reminded that the injury that kept Sidney Crosby out of the All-Star Game was originally suffered Jan. 14 against the Capitals and when Crosby was helped from the ice, Ovechkin tapped his stick on the boards to salute Crosby.

“No, it was because my stick had lots of snow on it,” Ovechkin said.

Countryman Alexei Kovalev did a DVD last season displaying some of his most dazzling moves and someone suggested he might have taken them from Ovechkin.

“No, I can’t do that,” he said. “I’m terrible at that stuff, seriously.”

Members of the THN team will be filing reports from Montreal throughout the ASG weekend.

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