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Lightning investigate withholding Melrose's contract

Darren Dreger

12/11/2008 7:35:38 PM

Sources tell TSN the Tampa Bay Lightning are investigating legal grounds for withholding the remainder of Barry Melrose's contract with the team.

Melrose's assessment of rookie forward Steven Stamkos is the basis for the investigation.

The recently fired Lightning head coach said, "Steven is not ready for the NHL," as part of an interview on a Toronto morning radio show.

Stamkos has been a key component in Tampa's marketing campaign since the Lightning drafted the 18-year-old forward first overall in last summers NHL Entry Draft and according to sources, the Lightning fear Melrose's comment may hinder Stamkos's marketing impact.

The dispute remains in the discussion stage and the team has not filed for breach of contract with the National Hockey League.