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Tampa Bay Lightning make Rick Tocchet their full-time coach

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Lightning made Rick Tocchet their full-time coach Monday, removing the "interim" tag and giving him a three-year contract.

The former NHL star took over in mid-November after Barry Melrose was fired. Tampa Bay went 19-33-14 under Tocchet.

"Now I'm on the clock," Tocchet said. "I'm ready to go. We have some great pieces on this team. I think we have a lot of players here that can do the job. I'm excited."

Hurt by injuries, the Lightning missed the playoffs for the second straight season. Tampa Bay used 50 players, including 22 defencemen.

Owner Oren Koules wholeheartedly endorsed Tocchet.

"It's something we're proud to do and wanted to do," Koules said. "He's a character guy. He's absolutely our guy."

Tampa Bay general manager Brian Lawton said assistant coach Wes Walz, goaltending coach Cap Raeder and video coach Nigel Kirwan also will return for the 2009-10 season.

Associate coach Mike Sullivan has an offer to stay with the team, but was given permission by Lawton to look for another NHL assistant or head coaching position.

One potential destination for Sullivan could be joining the staff of New York Rangers coach John Tortorella.

"He wants to weigh all his options," Lawton said. "It wouldn't shock me if we had to move in another direction."

Lawton, after a postseason review of the organization, decided not to bring in other candidates for Tocchet's position.

"Under a difficult situation, he did a great job," Lawton said.

The current Lightning roster includes key performers Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier from the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team. Lecavalier has been mentioned in trade speculation for several months.


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