We’re going to take a look at each NHL team, breaking down every new addition and subtraction, as well as promising prospects.
Today, we take a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)
Tampa Bay Lightning
2013 Season: 18-26-4, 40 pts (4th in Southeast Division, 14th in Eastern Conference)
Free Agents Signed:
C Valtteri Filppula from Detroit
RW Geoff Walker from Colorado
Free Agents Lost:
D Brendan Mikkelson to Pittsburgh
C Vincent Lecavalier to Philadelphia
LW Benoit Pouliot to NY Rangers
RW J.T. Wyman to Colorado
Future considerations to Columbus for D Drew Olson
LW Jonathan Drouin
LW Ondrej Palat
C Tyler Johnson
RW Richard Panik
D Radko Gudas
D Andrej Sustr
Tampa Bay entered the 2013 season with a lot of promise. They had a new, young starting goalie after acquiring Anders Lindback from Nashville. They still had the firepower of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. They even had an up-and-coming defenseman in Victor Hedman. All in all, they had enough to at least be a contender.
No, apparently they didn’t.
Tampa Bay joined their cross-state rivals in Florida by massively underachieving. They finished 2nd to last in the East (only ahead of Florida) and quickly shifted their franchise plans as the season went downhill. Head coach Guy Boucher was fired. Promising forward Cory Conacher was traded to Ottawa for goalie Ben Bishop, which brought up many questions about the Lindback acquisition. In general, 2013 was a year that didn’t make much sense for Tampa Bay.
Despite the mess that 2013 was for Tampa, head coach Jon Cooper and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis are ready to move forward. If you ask St. Louis, Tampa isn’t in rebuilding mode despite the 28th place finish:
“To me, when a team is rebuilding, it’s more that the young kids are not really ready but you still go with it… I feel like we have young players, quality players. Those guys when they come into the league at 18 or 19, they are impact players right away. So that doesn’t mean you are rebuilding, that means you got better right away. That’s the way I look it. I don’t look at it that we are rebuilding.”
St. Louis will be moving on without teammate Vincent Lecavalier though. The Lightning opted to use one of their compliance buyouts on their longtime face-of-the-franchise and captain. Lecavalier is the only major loss of the offseason for Tampa Bay though, and they freed up much-needed cap space in the process.
To help replace Lecavalier, GM Steve Yzerman signed former Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula. The contract raised eyebrows for both its length and value (5 years, $25 million), but Filppula should contribute to a better (and necessary) defensive presence from the forwards in Tampa Bay.
Tampa was also able to add a very talented winger in Jonathan Drouin with the 3rd pick overall in the NHL draft. Drouin likely has the skills to start in the NHL this year, but may be sent back to juniors for one year of seasoning before making the big jump. Regardless, the Lightning will soon have another dynamic player to add to the offense centered around Stamkos.
Looking up and down the roster, Tampa is sprinkled with a mix of youth, veterans, and question marks. Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone will be expected to lead promising forwards like Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, and possibly Drouin. On defense, Victor Hedman will lead the way while veterans Matt Carle, Eric Brewer, and Sami Salo hold the fort until youngsters Radko Gudas and Andrej Sustr are ready amongst others. Finally, Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback will have quite a competition in net to determine who is the #1 guy, if there even is a #1 guy.
Tampa will need their goaltending and defense to improve drastically to jump up in the standings. 2013-2014 will likely bring better results, but perhaps not a playoff contender quite yet. Martin St. Louis may not want to admit that this is a rebuild, but reality suggests that this is just an expedited version of rebuilding. For the 38-year old veteran, hopefully the team is ready to contend one more time before he calls it quits.