Just two days following the conclusion of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at which he bolstered the Tampa Bay Lightning’s pipeline of prospects, general manager Steve Yzerman was hard at work again, this time exercising his due diligence to keep several members of the current core of hopefuls intact.
On Monday, Yzerman extended qualifying offers to a handful of pending restricted free agents in order to retain negotiating rights to those players, among them defensemen Brendan Mikkelson, Brian Lee, Keith Aulie and Evan Oberg, as well as goaltending prospect Jaroslav Janus.
Netminder Anders Lindback, acquired nearly two weeks ago from the Nashville Predators in a trade, was already qualified by the Predators organization prior to being dealt to Tampa Bay.
Not receiving qualifying offers, however, was neither defensive prospect Sebastien Piche, a recent Kelly Cup champion with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades who was acquired by the Lightning on Feb. 21 from Detroit in exchange for Kyle Quincey, nor left wing Benoit Pouliot, who was traded to the Bolts from the Boston Bruins at this past weekend’s NHL Entry Draft in exchange for minor-leaguer Michel Ouellet and the Lightning’s fifth-round pick.
As a result, both Piche and Pouliot will become unrestricted free agents.
The decision on Pouliot made for an interesting discussion Monday, centering around why the Lightning would trade one of their 2012 draft picks for a player they didn’t intend to qualify.
Truth be told though, the Bolts do in fact intend to sign Pouliot, especially since Yzerman stated at Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh that he would like to see the skilled winger play among the team’s top forwards during the upcoming season.
But by not issuing a qualifying offer to Pouliot, the Lightning prevented the forward from being able to invoke his arbitration rights, a strategic move by the team, which is confident a deal to sign Pouliot will get done.
As for the group of defensive prospects who were qualified, the decision came without much surprise, as all along Yzerman has adhered to the approach of developing young players within the team’s own system, specifically when it comes to the blueline at which the Lightning still need help.