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Top Shelf: St. Louis rumors heat up trade deadline

<p>Less than a week away from the NHL's annual trade deadline, a certain two-time scoring champion rumored to be on the move is spicing up this year's market.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Less than a week away from the NHL's annual trade deadline, a certain two-time scoring champion rumored to be on the move is spicing up this year's market.

Several recent reports suggest Martin St. Louis, captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, has asked to be traded from his longtime franchise and it appears the request stems from a conflict between him and Bolts general manager Steve Yzerman.

The whole thing is turning into quite the soap opera, and the situation is less than ideal for a Tampa Bay team that has managed to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite playing the last few months without injured superstar Steven Stamkos.

According to a newspaper report from Arthur Staple of Newsday, St. Louis asked to be dealt last month shortly after Yzerman initially kept him off the Team Canada roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Yzerman, the executive director for the recent gold medalists, eventually included St. Louis on Team Canada's roster but only after his teammate Stamkos failed to be cleared for the Winter Games.

At the time of St. Louis' Olympic snub, hockey journalists speculated that Yzerman's decision could cause a rift between him and his 38-year-old captain, but it seemed unlikely that would actually happen. After all, sportswriters are paid to speculate about all sorts of topics without any of them ever becoming a reality.

St. Louis had a chance to slow the rumor mill that has been churning around his team after practice on Wednesday. Instead, when asked about the situation, he opted to throw more fuel on the fire, admitting he had spoken to Yzerman about his "future" in Tampa while offering little context.

"I've had talks with Steve about my future with the team and I'll leave it at that," St. Louis said mysteriously.

There could be plenty more to the story of St. Louis and Yzerman's conflict, but if the spat is all about the Olympic snub than it would seem the player is being a tad bit sensitive in this case. One would like to think St. Louis, an undrafted and undersized (5-foot-8, 180 pounds) player, would have gotten used to the slights by now.

Then again, maybe never getting used to being looked over is exactly the reason St. Louis has built a borderline Hall of Fame career for himself when nobody else thought that was possible.

Another report from Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca suggested St. Louis, who has a home in Greenwich, Conn., will only waive his no-trade clause to accept a trade to the New York Rangers. Obviously, that makes getting a deal done a little more difficult, but considering the Rangers are shopping their captain, Ryan Callahan, it's not hard to imagine St. Louis getting shipped to New York.

However, since Callahan is due to be a free agent this summer (and rumored to be asking for a lucrative contract in the range of $49 million over seven years) and St. Louis is signed through 2014-15, it would seem the Rangers would have to offer more than their captain to land last season's scoring champion.

Without the St. Louis drama, the 2013-14 trade deadline was already shaping up to be a good one. In addition to Callahan, valuable forwards like Thomas Vanek, Ryan Kesler and Matt Moulson also are expected to be available before the deadline hits next Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET. Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov and Ryan Miller, longtime No. 1 goaltender of the Buffalo Sabres, also could be had for a price.

St. Louis is known as a classy player and a consummate professional, so it doesn't seem likely he's going to drag the team down with him if Yzerman is unable to trade him.

With Stamkos nearing a return to the ice, there is a decent chance the Lightning could make a deep run in this spring's playoffs. At 38, there is no chance St. Louis will let a personal problem with his GM get in the way of the chance to add a second Stanley Cup title to his resume.

One thing is clear: Whether St. Louis is traded or not, the mere suggestion that he could move to another team -- even if it's only the Rangers -- should make Wednesday afternoon a lot more interesting.

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