Lightning Free Agency Preview

Note: This article was meant to be posted on June 30th, but I lost power on Friday night and just had it restored today. Therefore, some of the information might be outdated.

Aside from Steven Stamkos winning another scoring title, the Lightning had a very disappointing season. They went from one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals to not even being close to making the playoffs the next year. There are a lot of things you can point to blame for it; injuries, terrible goaltending, bad defense, a roster that seemingly changed every game, etc. Steve Yzerman inherited a team that wasn’t in great shape to begin with but he’s done a very nice job as GM of Tampa Bay and seems to know what he needs to do to make them a better team in the next few years. He’s already made a couple moves, so what else can we expect from Stevie Y this summer? Find out after thejump.


Roster Size
: 18
Payroll: $45,989,773
$ on Forwards: $34,048,106
$ on Defensemen: $9,475,000
$ on Goalies: $1,300,000
Cap Space:  $24,310,227

LW

C

RW

Ryan Malone

Steven Stamkos

Martin St. Louis

Brett Connolly

Vincent Lecavalier

Teddy Purcell

Tom Pyatt

Nate Thompson

JT Brown

Dana Tyrell

Adam Hall

JT Wyman

Defense

Victor Hedman

Eric Brewer

Marc-Andre Bergeron

Brendan Mikkelson

Goalies

Mathieu Garon

Restricted Free Agents

Benoit Pouliot, left wing – The Lightning traded for Pouliot’s rights at the draft and have been trying to work out a deal with him for the past week. The Lightning leaned heavily on their top five forwards for most of the second half of last season so forward depth is a key need for them. Pouliot should be able to provide that. He hasn’t quite lived up to his potential (at all) but he has been a solid third liner for the last couple of years.

Keith Aulie, defense – Aulie had a brief stint as Dion Phaneuf’s defense partner a couple years ago but he was barely used by the Leafs this season. Yzerman acquired him along with two other defensemen at the deadline in exchange for Carter Ashton and he wasn’t very impressive during his short stint in Tampa Bay. I’m sure the Lightning plan to keep him around since he’s pretty young and has potential but he I don’t think he’ll see past the third pairing if he’s in the NHL next year.

Anders Lindback, goaltending – Lindback should be one of the Lightning’s starting goaltenders next season considering that Yzerman traded for his rights. He’s a very big guy who takes up a lot of space in net and that makes him very difficult to beat at times. There isn’t much NHL experience to go by with Lindback (a little under 40 games) but he’s been very good as Pekka Rinne’s back-up in Nashville so he was worth taking a chance on for the Bolts. Yzerman should also be able to get him to re-sign at not too high of a cost.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Tim Wallace, forward – Wallace is your standard, run of the mill fourth liner who the Lightning claimed off waivers sometime last season. He was actually somewhat useful in this role and gave you what most would expect from most fourth liners. His tendency to take bad penalties is something that a lot of teams probably don’t envy, though.

Ryan Shannon, right winger –  Many predicted that Ryan Shannon’s production would drop because he was going from playing in a heavily sheltered situations in Ottawa to playing in a much tougher role in Tampa Bay. Well, we were right about one thing. Shannon went from having 11 goals to only 4 the next season but his underlying numbers improved dramatically. This shows that while Shannon may not provide much offense, he can provide some use to a team looking for depth.

Brett Clark, defense – Clark may have been the Lightning’s worst defenseman last season. Both he and Pavel Kubina were lit up night after night as the team’s second pairing and just seem to get worse as the season went on. To make things worse, Clark was not producing much offensively to make up for the problems in his own end. At 35 years of age, Clark is definitely starting to see his age limit him but he was on a whole different level of bad last season.

Mike Commodore, defense – Commodore spent most of last season in the minors after the Red Wings took a chance on him with a $1 mil. contract. He was traded to the Lightning for next to nothing and he gave the Lightning enough for their money. Decent defensive play with protected minutes. Who knows if Yzerman felt that was worth keeping around or not, but the Canes legend will probably be playing hockey somewhere next season.

Bruno Gervais , defense – When you’re playing $525k for a player, you generally have to keep your expectations low and Gervais exceeded those expectations last season. He played very well in a sheltered role for the Lightning last season but he also got some of the easiest matchups in terms of zone starts and quality of competition. He might be worth a look for a team who needs another warm body for the blue line. Unfortunately for him, the Lightning currently have a surplus of bottom-pairing defensemen.

Non-NHL Players

Cory Conacher, forward – The Norfolk Admirals had an incredible season in the AHL, so I’m going to expect the Lightning to look into the depth they have there to acquire some forward depth for next season. Conacher could be someone of use as he led the Ads in scoring and might step into a top-nine role without much of an issue.

Tyler Johnson, forward – Another one of Norfolk’s top-scorers, Johnson could get a look to be on the Lightning’s roster next season as a possible mid-season call-up. He was simply outstanding in the playoffs last season.

Vladislav Namestnikov, center – Namestnikov might need another year of seasoning in Juniors but the he could impress the team enough in training camp to possibly make the roster. This is a bit of a long-shot, though.

Dustin Tokarski, goalie – I don’t know if he’s been good enough in the AHL to justify making the team out of camp but they might look to him during the season if their other goaltenders struggle.

Team Needs:

Second Defense pairing: Both Clark and Kubina are leaving and it is probably for the best since both were dreadful last season. They are going to need to find two defensemen to play in the top-four to take some pressure off Hedman and Brewer. They brought back Brian Lee and Keith Aulie is a RFA, but I would still expect them to bring in someone else. Neither of those players are proven top-four options, nor are MAB or Brendan Mikkelsson so it’s highly likely that they will look to sign at least one defenseman.

Possible Targets: Carlo Colaiacovo, Jason Garrison, Bryan Allen, Sami Salo, Adrian Aucoin, Greg Zanon, Kent Huskins

Left Winger:  This will likely depend on how Brett Connolly develops because it isn’t as much of a need if he improves on his rookie season. They are also saddled with Ryan Malone’s contract so he is probably  going to take up a spot in the top-six regardless but I think they might bring someone in. The Lightning were not a good possession team last season so bringing in another winger to help out could improve that.

Possible Targets:  Ray Whitney, Ryan Smyth, Daniel Winnik, Dustin Penner, Mikael Samuelsson

Goaltending: Always seems to be a need for Tampa Bay. Here’s hoping that Lindback can help them.

Depth Wingers: Tampa has four pretty good centers, but not much to speak of on the wings. They did re-sign JT Wyman to help this out but I think they may look to sign another player, particularly one who can kill penalties.

Possible Targets: Brandon Prust, Tom Kostopoulos, Adam Burish, David Moss

What have they done so far?

Re-signed JT Wyman to a one-year $600k deal

Wyman was a serviceable depth option for the Lightning last year and he also played some really tough minutes. He ranked second among forwards in quality of competition faced and started only 30.3% of his shifts in the defensive zone. He was burned on the shot clock because of this so I’m not sure if he’s best suited for this role, but he’s useful on the fourth line and the penalty kill.

Traded a two second rounders and a third round pick for the rights to Anders Lindback, a seventh round pick and Kyle Wilson

The Lightning acquired a lot of picks at the deadline and they put some of them to use here by trading for a solid goalie prospect in Anders Lindback. Goaltending has been an issue for the Lightning since Nikolai Khabibulin so Yzerman knew that he had to look for somewhat of a long-term solution this off-season. Whether or not Lindback provides that is yet to be seen but Yzerman didn’t have to give up a lot to acquire him. Sure, they gave up three draft picks but the Lightning had six picks in the first two rounds so this isn’t that big of a cost for them. If Lindback gives the Lightning even league average goaltending then it will be an improvement over what they have had for the last few seasons.

Traded for Benoit Pouliot’s rights

The two haven’t come to terms on a deal yet but as I mentioned earlier, the Lightning needed depth on the wings and Pouliot provides that. I don’t know how he will fare without the supporting cast he had in Boston but he should be a decent enough third liner.

Re-signed Brian Lee to a two-year deal

Yzerman took a chance on Lee at the deadline and got decent results. I don’t know if he’s worth locking up for two years since he’s a third pairing guy at best, but they aren’t exactly breaking the bank here. Between him, Bergeron and Mikkelson, the Lightning have three third pairing guys under contract for next season.

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