Boy, what a difference a week makes. In just the last several days, the Lightning drastically revamped their blue line.
By drafting Victor Hedman
and signing free agents Mattias Ohlund
and Matt Walker, the Lightning effectively put a big checkmark next to the top item on their offseason to-do list.
Lightning General Manager Brian Lawton repeatedly mentioned that shoring up the defense was a critical part of the organization’s summer game plan. Having to use 22 defensemen last season was not an ideal situation, but now the team heads into the 2009 training camp with a more solid and deeper defense corps. This unit should include Hedman, Ohlund, Walker, Paul Ranger, Andrei Mezsaros, Lukas Krajicek (who was re-signed earlier in the week as well), Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin (the Lightning gave qualifying offers to the last three this week). So we know a couple of things no matter what the opening night roster looks like. First, players who might have been playing more minutes than they were accustomed to during last season’s tumult will revert to their “normal” minutes in 2009-10. Second, the number of quality D-men on the roster will allow Lightning coaches to spread those minutes around without hesitation. So even those players who log the most minutes likely won’t be hitting 28, 29 or 30 minutes a night.
Moving forward now, what players will the team target? It’s been widely speculated and reported that the Bolts will seek a backup netminder for Mike Smith. The other area Lawton addressed in his comments to the media and fans is the need to upgrade the “bottom six” forward position. He has stated that the team needs more production, both in terms of goals/points and grittiness, from the third and fourth lines. Don’t be surprised, then, if the team signs some depth forwards in the coming weeks and months.
Before I get to a submitted fan question, here’s a brief thought on the first round of the draft. There was so much talk about teams potentially making trades (including a rumor about the Lightning and Maple Leafs swapping picks). But once the draft started, much went according to script. Perhaps a lot of that had to do with the Islanders taking John Tavares (since some of the rumored deals hinged on New York passing on Tavares). There were only a couple of guys who “fell” – and one of those was Carter Ashton, whom the Lightning traded up to grab with the 29th overall selection.Here’s a question from Raul Blevins …
I love the enthusiasm you have calling the plays during broadcasts. My question is regarding the Vinny Lecavalier situation. A while back he signed a deal in which he can’t be traded. Is that still the case because there are a lot of rumors floating around about potential trade before his new deal kicks in?
Thanks for the question, Raul. Vinny signed an extension last summer that included a no-movement clause, meaning that he would have to sign off on any potential trade (or roster move). That new deal started on July 1. Many of the rumors circulated last season and in the beginning of the offseason because his old deal did not contain a no-movement clause. However, there are a couple points worth mentioning. First, Brian Lawton stated unequivocally that the team is not shopping Vinny. (He also stated that he will always do what he feels is in the best interest of the team). Second, he has told both Vinny and his agent that the team would run any potential deal past them (this was before the no-movement clause kicked in, of course). Lastly, he said last week he expects Vinny to be on the team next year and that he’s done answering questions about it.
As always, if you have questions for me, please submit them to: firstname.lastname@example.org