MONTREAL -- What a wonderfully perverse sense of showmanship on the part of the NHL to place Vincent Lecavalier in the starting lineup for tonight's NHL All-Star Game; where an arena-full of ravenous Montreal Canadiens fans will no doubt offer another deafening invitation for Vinny to come home, as they did in the introductions for last night's skills competitions.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's vehement protests haven't done anything to quell speculation that Lecavalier is on the block because his contract is front-loaded or because everyone including Steven Stamkos is currently trade bait. This weekend, Bruce "Malkin to the Kings" Garrioch asked GM Brian Lawton about a Vinny-to-the-Edmonton Oilers rumor, and received another rebuke:
"It's just a pipe dream that people think we're going to trade him," said Lawton.
"We're excited about the way our team is playing and I don't think it's fair to continue to talk about these things. I've said he's not going to be traded and he hasn't been traded. Somebody just asked me if he's going to be traded on Monday? No, he won't. Not Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or any other day for that matter ... He loves Tampa Bay and that's why he made the commitment he did (signing an 11-year, $85-million contract extension)."
Vinny soap opera aside, it could be an interesting all-star game tonight, as these things go. If the lines hold, a Ryan Getzlaf-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane combination sounds pretty darn watchable. There's also 15 first-time all-stars playing, which hopefully translates into a little more enthusiasm than usual. (Something that the fickle Bell Centre crowd could certainly help with, too.)
If nothing else, watch the game to see if Puck Daddy reader Michael stumbled on some grand conspiracy when he spied this all-star score on NHL.com on Thursday.
"If it's 4-1 eastern all stars going into the second, then the game is clearly fixed," he wrote. No word on how it will affect the Vegas lines on an exhibition game.