Some noise was made in the Southeast Division yesterday as the Tampa Bay Lightning traded for Nashville Predators back-up goalie Anders Lindback. The Lightning had the worst goaltending in the league last season and don’t feel confident enough with the prospects in their system yet, so they had to make a deal to help fill the void next season. Thus, they decided to send two second round picks and a third rounder to Nashville in exchange for Lindback’s rights. They also received Kyle Wilson and a 7th round pick in return.
Ever since Nikolai Khabibulin left, the Lightning have had a long history of bad luck with goaltending. They’ve gone through names like John Grahame, Mike McKenna, Johan Holmqvist, Marc Denis, Karri Ramo, Mike Smith, Antero Niittymakki, Dan Ellis and Dwayne Roloson and none of them have been able to stick around for more than a couple years. Goaltending arguably has the most impact in hockey out of every position, so an elite netminder can boost a mediocre team (see this year’s Coyotes) while an awful goalie can submarine a team that might be on the cusp of playoff contention if they had decent netminding. The Lightning have been seeing more of the latter happen to them since the lockout, which is why they made this trade.
The Lightning usually take the cheap route with goaltending, so seeing them trade for Lindback makes a lot more sense than making a huge offer for Roberto Luongo or something. With that being said, I can’t help but feel that they gave up a little more than they should have to get Lindback. Tampa Bay still has two more picks in the second round along with two first rounders, so if they were going to trade assets to address a position of need, this was the perfect time to do it. I’m just not sure if Lindback was the right guy to go after if you’re looking to solve your goaltending woes.
That last comment wasn’t necessarily a knock against Lindback because he has played well as Pekka Rinne’s back-up in Nashville, but he’s played in only 38 total games in the NHL. Those who think that this trade is going to solve the Lightning’s goaltenidng woes should wait and see how he performs in Tampa Bay this year. A goalie who plays well in his first handful of games generally gets a longer leash than others, but the results after that short set of games tend to drop off after that. Lindback is prone to the same regression but with how unpredictable goaltending can be, he might be starting caliber as soon as next year but we don’t know that right now. He might perform similar to Roloson this year and the Lightning will be right back where they started.
Overall, this isn’t a bad risk for the Lightning and a great job by David Poille to give Nashville some earlier picks in this draft after spending most of them at the deadline this year. The Lightning need a goalie for at least next season, have assets to give (i.e. draft picks) and thought it would be better to trade for a younger goalie instead of kicking the tires on anyone who is available in free agency this July. Did they give up a lot? Yes. Is Lindback going to solve all their goaltending problems? Probably not, but he isn’t going to cost much and they needed someone other than Mathieu Garon to be the starter next season. Since they don’t see Helenius, Tokarski or Janus as options next year, they decided to take a chance on Lindback. If it doesn’t work out, then they have other assets they can move to look for another option in goal. I am skeptical of how Lindback will fare as a starter but he can’t be any worse than what they got out of Roloson last year. If Lindback puts up league average numbers with the Bolts next year, it’s a significant upgrade over what they had before. They just need to hope that he delivers.