With the Tampa Bay Lightning moving forward this offseason with their preparations for the upcoming 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa plus finalizing the sale of the franchise to a new owner by month's end, Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster decided to bring back a familiar face.
It would be in the form of forward Vaclav Prospal, a player whom they traded to the Philadelphia Flyers just one day before the February 26th trade deadline for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a 2009 second round draft pick. This afternoon, Tampa Bay acquired the rights to Prospal from the Flyers for the Nashville Predators' 2008 seventh round draft pick.
The 33-year-old Prospal is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, so the Lightning would need to sign him to a new contract within the next 12 days before he is officially back with the team.
Despite the fact he put up respectable numbers in Philadelphia in which he had 14 points (4 goals and 10 assists) in 18 regular season games and another 13 points in 17 playoff games during the 2007-2008 campaign, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren wasn't confident Prospal was going to re-sign with them.
"Vinny really didn't express much of an interest in coming back and playing for us next season," Holmgren told the Associated Press in announcing the trade. "His heart is elsewhere."
Prior to joining the Flyers for the second time in his career, Prospal recorded 57 points (29 goals and 28 assists) and had 39 penalty minutes in 62 games for the Lightning. With one of the three key players from their 2004 Stanley Cup champioship team in Brad Richards having been traded away to the Dallas Stars, Feaster wanted to bring back Prospal to help out in point production.
"After assessing the pending free agent market and receiving a great deal of input from our prospective new owners, the decision was made to attempt to pursue Vinny Prospal for a return engagement to Tampa," Feaster said in the team's press release. "While we realize some of the risks involved in this strategy we also know that Prospal and Vincent Lecavalier have a very special chemistry together and getting Vinny back in the fold early would enable us to focus our time, attention and resources on other critical areas this summer while leaving our successful top line virtually in tact. At the end of the day, we felt that reacquiring Vinny now and attempting to negotiate a contract with him sooner rather than later was in the best interests of the organization."
According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times, Prospal was hoping to earn at least $5 million per season on the free agent market, but given his love for the Tampa Bay area, likes playing with Lacavalier and that former head coach John Tortorella is no longer with the team, he is open to signing for less money to play for the Lightning for the third time in his career.
Now it is just a matter of getting Prospal signed on the dotted line.