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Published February 27 2012

Former Moorhead hockey standout traded to Tampa

MOORHEAD – All Moorhead boys hockey coach Dave Morinville wants is for Brian Lee to get a chance to prove himself.

It appears Lee will get that opportunity.

Lee, 24, was traded Monday before the National Hockey League’s trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators to the Tampa Bay Lightning for former Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy.

Lee, a former Moorhead star who was a first-round pick of the Senators, spent four seasons with the team.

“I look at this as a positive for Brian,” said Morinville, who is renting Lee’s condo in Moorhead. “It is a great opportunity to prove himself whereas in Ottawa it felt like if he ever made a mistake, that was it.”

Lee goes to the Lightning, which are currently in a rebuilding stage yet has an outside chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Tampa Bay sits six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

In 35 games with Ottawa, Lee was the team’s seventh defenseman. Lee became the odd man out with Erik Karlsson leading all NHL defensemen in points. Karlsson’s season, the team’s mix of experienced defensemen and the emergence of the team’s 2009 first-round pick, Jared Cowan, made it hard for Lee to carve a niche.

Lee also had a hard time breaking into the lineup last season when he played only 50 games.

Going to Tampa Bay will certainly give Lee a crack at getting more playing time.

Tampa Bay has three injured defensemen including former first-round pick, Victor Hedman. Injuries are also why the Lightning traded for Lee and former University of North Dakota defenseman Mike Commodore on the same day. Commodore was traded hours before the Lightning made a move for Lee.

“I think it has been frustrating for him not to play,” Morinville said of Lee. “But he’s always been a class act throughout the whole thing.”

Lee rose to national prominence his senior year. He was Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2005 guiding Moorhead to a 24-2-1 record and a second place finish at the state tournament.

After being picked 10th overall by the Senators, Lee played two seasons at North Dakota before playing in the Senators organization. He was called up to the NHL in 2008.

“Whenever you get traded, it means you are going to give a guy a chance,” Morinville said. “You have to be excited for him. I know I am.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found

at slightlychilled.areavoices.com