Melrose responds to report on coaching Lightning

Former Los Angeles Kings coach Barry Melrose brushed aside a rumor he is in line to become the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, saying he is enjoying his life as an ESPN analyst.

"This is no different than any of the last 10 years," Melrose said in response to a report in the Toronto Star. "I've been contacted by a handful of clubs every year since joining ESPN. My desire to coach again has never been a secret, but I love what I do at ESPN."

Melrose's return to NHL coaching has been speculated upon several times in recent years but, when asked about the report on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Friday, Melrose added: "I want to coach again in the NHL. But nothing's going on. Uh, I work for ESPN and I'm very happy working for ESPN."

A published report in the Star Thursday suggested that Melrose, 52, is in line for the job. The Star reported it was told that Melrose would sign a contract worth about $2 million per season with the Lightning in the next few days.

The paper reported incoming team owner Oren Koules is seeking someone to replace current coach John Tortorella. The new owner wants a fresh start for a team that finished last in the Eastern Conference with its second-worst record in franchise history at 31-42-9.

Koules' group, OK Hockey LLC, is awaiting approval of the NHL's board of governors to take over the team, which won the Stanley Cup in 2004, from Michigan-based Palace Sports & Entertainment. The Star said the vote is expected to take place on June 18.

Lightning general manager Jay Feaster issued a statement Friday.

"We have been asked by both Palace Sports & Entertainment and OK Hockey that unless a hockey operations issue is time-sensitive or deadline-sensitive, all items be deferred until after the closing of the sale of the franchise," Feaster said. "In as much as John Tortorella is under contract to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2008-09 season, this is not necessarily a time-sensitive issue."

A former NHL player and coach, Melrose has worked as a commentator and studio analyst at ESPN since 1996. He took the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993, where they were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens.