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UPDATED: APRIL 18, 2007.

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THE SOAPBOX

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VINCENT LECAVALIER - FRANCHISE PLAYER.

Throughout the past season I've occasionally received e-mails from some readers inquiring into the possibility of the Tampa Bay Lightning trading Vincent Lecavalier.

Even in the midst of the first round series between the Lightning and the New Jersey Devils, a couple of readers have asked about Lecavalier getting shopped.

The basis for most of these inquiries is the stated intent of Lightning ownership to cut payroll for next season.

I've said throughout the season that Lecavalier won't be traded. That opinion hasn't changed in the playoffs.

Anyone following the NHL this season not only knows that Lecavalier has been a dominant player, the winner of the Richard trophy for the most goals scored this season by a player, but has been simply overwhelming thus far for the Bolts in their series against the Devils.

What you're seeing from Lecavalier now is a player finally reaching the lofty expectations of the Lightning when they drafted him nine years ago.

It's taken time, as some players develop more slowly than others, but watching Lecavalier since the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup run, through his performance at the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, and over the past two seasons, it's clear that he's finally become an NHL superstar.

Not only that, but he's become the franchise player and offensive leader throughout this season and into this year's playoffs.

Sure, Martin St. Louis won an Art Ross and a Hart trophy, and Brad Richards was the 2004 playoff MVP and Lady Byng winner, but there's no question that this season, he's been clearly the best player on the Lightning.

He's earning his big contract and there's no way in hell Lightning GM Jay Feaster will move him.

In fact, Feaster went on record several years ago stating he wouldn't go down in history as the man who traded Vincent Lecavalier. While he's admitted this past season he's received calls about Lecavalier from rival teams and has listened to them, he's ultimately said he has no interest in moving Lecavalier.

Sure, the Bolts will cut payroll by about $4 million this season. Sure, anyone can be traded in the NHL, why, just look at Wayne Gretzky, who was dealt twice in his career. Folks will obviously read something into Feaster's aforementioned comments that simply isn't there.

I'm very confident in saying there is no way Jay Feaster trades Vincent Lecavalier. Not after the season he's had, and definitely not after the way he's played in this year's playoffs.

It's a dream of some Montreal Canadiens fans that their club will somehow pull off a miraculous deal that'll bring Lecavalier, a local boy, back home to Montreal.

It's always possible that Lecavalier, an unrestricted free agent in two years time, could end up signing with another team, that the Bolts could still be under a tight payroll and unable to retain him.

That's about the earliest possible time I foresee Lecavalier wearing a Canadiens jersey, or that of a team other than the Bolts or Habs.

But if it's possible for the Bolts to retain Lecavalier in two years time, you know Feaster will do everything in his power to make it happen.

Vincent Lecavalier is the Tampa Bay Lightning's franchise player.

He's not going anywhere this summer.

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The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material in Spector's Soapbox copyrighted (C) 2006. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author is prohibited.

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