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Defense, Defense, Defense

The Lightning are shopping for depth on the blueline as the trade deadline looms, for the second season in a row. Two articles are out in the local rags today that say exactly the same thing: It's the blueline or bust in a deadline transaction. We'll start with the Times where Tom Jones uses Emphasis -- if not a guarantee -- on what the Lightning are shopping for

The Lightning needs a body, specifically one that plays defense. The Lightning can add a player who is making as much as $3-million and, if it does make a deal, it will be for a defenseman. The Lightning has used, essentially, six defensemen all season and fears an injury or two would create a gaping hole.
That's his emphasis, not mine, on will. At least that is how it appeared in the print edition this morning. Erik Erlendsson's article in the Tampa Tribune basically re-iterates what Jones published int he Times... Especially the mention about the Cap situation being a non-issue::
One thing that won't be an issue is the salary cap. Though the Lightning have been up against the $39 million cap for most of the season, Feaster said there is enough room today to add a face-value contract worth $3 million. "In terms of the money itself, we have room," Feaster said. "I don't feel we're constrained because we are so tight up against the cap. Being able to bring in a contract worth $3 million, that's pretty good."
So in a world of rumors, what can we expect the Lightning to do? Feaster's modus operendi is to acquire tough players who put the team first and will not shake up chemistry too much. Stan Neckar's acquisition at the 2004 trade deadline is an example of this -- as was Daryl Sydor's acquisition (which Feaster talked out with former Lightning defensiveman Brad Lukowich, Sydor's former teammate in Dallas, about before pulling the trigger to assure Sydor was the one to be acquired as blueline help). Both players had ties to the Lightning locker room and weren't going to shake things up when brought in. That's part of the reason I believe rumors about Brendan Witt coming to Tampa is utter bullcrap. Witt has been saying he wants a trade since before the season... His club is on the upswing but it will be a climb back to the top (locking up goalie Olaf Kolzig long term and having the real "Next One" makes the Caps future look bright) and with Witt pressing for a trade, it looks like he is more concerned about leaving a sunk ship than being part of the team concept. If this trade demand is what he does when he knows he will be playing on a team out of contention for a playoff spot, what type of antics would he pull on a playoff team that is two games down during a playoff series? Feaster's known M.O. and rumors about Rick Dudley scouting the Lightning earlier this season also justifies rumors about re-acquiring defensiveman Jassen Cullimore from Chicago... Though I do have my doubts that it will happen. And remember, kiddies, the best site for a rundown on hockey rumor speculation is Spectors Hockey. If you haven't -- bookmark the site. It's a resource that any transaction speculating fan should read for a healthy dose of reality (instead of a healthy dose of bullcrap from lie-mongers).