With a Tampa Bay Lightning team that needed an upgrade on defense heading into the 2013-14 campaign, the Bolts have made strides on their blue line thus far.
After meshing solid veteran blueliners – Eric Brewer, Matt Carle and Sami Salo – with youth in Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas and Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay saw a vast improvement on the front. That coupled with a full-team commitment on defense has helped the Lightning continue to excel despite a better part of their roster seeing time out of the lineup due to injury.
The Bolts then took advantage of the Chicago Blackhawks waiver status on defenseman Mike Kostka, claiming him Sunday.
"As an organization you cannot have enough depth at defense," head coach Jon Cooper said.
Cooper knows Kostka extremely well, coaching him during the Norfolk Admirals run to the Calder Cup during the 2011-12 season.
"Mike was a big part of our run in Norfolk and I know him extremely well," Cooper said. "First and foremost he's a great person and great in our locker room. He thinks through the game extremely well."
With a fairly even spread of right and left-handed shots among their blue line, Andrej Sustr's recent injury with the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, left Tampa Bay short on right-handed shooters.
"He's not only an NHL defenseman, but a right-handed shot that can play on the power play if needed," Cooper said. "Sustr's hurt, so we just have Salo and Gudas in that group of right-handed defensemen. To have a right-handed shot like Kostka's, that can contribute to our team was a no-brainer for us and I'm happy for him."
Since playing for the Admirals, Kostka most recently appeared with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks organization. Kostka has played in nine games with the Blackhawks this season, recording two goals, one assists and a plus-3 rating.
Kostka will report to the Lightning and wear No. 21 for the team.