[This is really an incomplete thought on my part, I've been trying to work on a front-page story for most of the day on this one, but I get marred down in complexities and lost in finance when I just want to state bare fact. Still, seeing I want to get the thought out there, here goes nothing... JF]
With the Major League Baseball trade deadline passing yesterday, pitcher David Price got traded from the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday in a three way blockbuster deal. I've seen some fans make smart ass remarks about how at least David Price didn't limit his trade options to one team; a not-so-subtle jab at former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis' departure from the Lightning.
The thing is, the two deals aren't comparable and not nearly. Martin St. Louis demanded his trade out of spite for being left off the Canadian Olympic team, or at least that is the major reason that's been clung to since the rumors of his imminent trade came out. David Price didn't ask for a trade, didn't expect to be traded, and likely didn't want to be traded - while the Rays aren't in the thick of the playoff hunt right now, they aren't exactly out of contention either.
There's a number, though, that dictated Price's departure from the Rays. It's a number that's fluctuated over the years but it's remained at a point that it dictates a revolving door, moneyball-dependent management philosophy with the team's roster. That number at current is 17,389; the Tampa Bay Rays average attendance at Tropicana Field this season, which is just over 50% of stadium capacity and ranked 28th in Major League Baseball out of 30 teams.
The Rays weak season - they're two games below .500 right now, 7.5 games back from first place in the American League East- and the finances of the club dictated Price's departure. Just like that combination dictated other Rays players to be moved or allowed to leave through free agency in years past. In comparison, the fixed costs of the NHL - the salary cap - helped keep Martin St. Louis in Tampa for much of his career. It's not that finances for the Lightning were always golden, and attendance did have its off years, but the cap has helped keep a level financial playing field for all 30 teams.
I don't want to rehash everything with Marty to compare it to Price. The most pertinent fact to mention was the Lightning was in the thick of contention at the time the St. Louis rumors started. There was no need or want to move Marty prior to this, or at all. Marty dictated the trade, dictated who he would allow himself to be traded to as well.
While the Price deal isn't comparable to the St. Louis trade, it can be looked at as a potential harbinger for how the Lightning will operate in the near future: Young talent on the cusp of free agency who become too costly to retain, being moved. That's nothing out of the ordinary in pro sports; it's just been a very long while since we've seen home grown talent for the Bolts moved in such a deal.