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Ask Burnsie: Looking forward to the busy offseason

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns answers your questions

by Bryan burns /

ASK BURNSIE: beat writer Bryan Burns will answer readers' most intriguing questions in a regular mailbag feature. Be sure to tweet questions to @bburnsnhl and include the hashtag #AskBurnsie to have your question answered in a future mailbag. If your question wasn't answered today, resubmit it in the future and we'll attempt to get it in for another edition. Have fun with your questions too; the more off-beat the query the better. 

Same teams for Rookie Tourney this year? Where will the tourney be? Any news on Dev Camp? Heard rumor it will be at new ice rink. (via @tiggrmommi)

Yes, expect the same four teams to be involved: Tampa Bay, Washington, Nashville and Florida. The Lightning aren't hosting this year - it's Washington's turn -- but I'm hearing the tournament will be held in Estero again like it was two years ago when the Bolts did host.

Haven't heard anything new concerning development camp, but expect it to be held around the same late June-early July time frame as it typically is. Also, the venue hasn't changed. It will still be held at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum and, as always, open to the public.

Does it bother the players that so many fans from opposing teams are at our games sometimes? It REALLY bugs me and I wonder how they feel. (via @rebecca85971473).

If it does, they've haven't said so publically. I think certain teams - Chicago, Pittsburgh come to mine - are going to bring a large amount of fans to road venues, AMALIE Arena included, no matter what. I don't think that's necessarily an indictment on the Lightning fan base but more a testament to the strength of certain fan bases, the Blackhawks and the Penguins in particular, and their willingness to travel.

Also, you have to take into account the number of tourists that visit the Tampa Bay area during the winter months when hockey is in full swing. Some of these tourists are going to want to see a hockey game during their vacation and will go to support their home town team. It's natural. I agree it can get kind of annoying when you hear opposing teams' fans chanting at AMALIE Arena, but I also think that adds to the great atmosphere inside the arena and brings more excitement to the game.

Trust me, though, Lightning players fully understand what a great fan base they play in front of in Tampa Bay. They're appreciative of the passion Bolts fans display both at games and in the community, and the players consider it an honor and a privilege to play in front of them.

That's one of the reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning were named the top sports franchise of the big four U.S. sports in ESPN's Ultimate Standings ranking.

Gut feeling on what dman Lightning will get this offseason? Dumba? Mattias Ekholm? Montour? (via @ekwhalen)

Look into your crystal ball. Who gets dealt? And who is Tampa's new top 4 d-man? (via @billkulp)

I combined these two questions because they both are basically asking the same thing.

It's impossible for me to speculate who the Lightning could pick up this offseason, whether through trade or the summer free agency period. The most pressing need for the Lightning, as it's been for a while, is adding another piece on the blue line, preferably a right-handed shot to balance out the defensive pairings. Jake Dotchin did an unbelievable job filling this role once he was called up from Syracuse last season. Can he continue to develop and solidify his status on the top pair with Victor Hedman through a full season? Lightning fans certainly hope so.

I think the Lightning will target help on the blue line in the offseason and make a move to shore up that area of the ice. Is that in the form of a top 4 defenseman who can step in and make an immediate impact or a depth d-man that might not be the sexy splash Bolts fans are hoping the team makes but helps to balance out the defensive pairs more evenly? I think that's a question we won't know the answer to until training camp starts in September.

When can we expect the announcement that #Bring11Home is done? (via @PJ33626)

I miss Brian Boyle too. The guy was a pleasure to cover and all class.

Also, congratulations to the former Bolt on the birth of his second child, a baby girl, on Wednesday.

How many rookies/AHLers do you think will crack the NHL roster next year, if any? Gourde, Dumont, Koekkoek, Joseph, Cirelli, Stephens, etc.? (via @mcgucks91)

This question is tough to answer now because we don't know how many rosters spots will be open, what Las Vegas does with respect to the Lightning in the expansion draft, what players the Lightning sign in the offseason, etc.

However, the 2017 training camp is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing camps in recent memory. Last year, there were hardly any roster spots open, yet Brayden Point was able to force himself into the conversation and ultimately earn a slot in the Opening Day lineup, sending established NHLers like Erik Condra and Cory Conacher down to Syracuse in the process, because of his phenomenal play during training camp.

This season figures to see considerably more roster spots available for players to earn. I think Yanni Gourde has a leg up on the competition because of his effectiveness over the final couple months of the season with the Lightning combined with his continued outstanding play for the Crunch during their Calder Cup Run. Same for Gabriel Dumont, who brings something a little different to the table with his grit and toughness, kind of a Ryan Callahan 2.0 if you will. Dumont did an admirable job filling in for Callahan this past season. I think that earns him a long look and probably a roster spot come fall.

Is this the season Slater Koekkoek finally realizes his potential as a full-time NHL player? Is Matthew Peca the next Brayden Point? Will Condra or Conacher make their way back to the NHL after an impressive season with the Crunch?

There are so many questions waiting to be answered at this year's training camp. I, for one, can't wait to get started.

When you're on the road, which city has the best eats? (via @mcgucks91)

I've often thought about putting together a culinary guide to NHL road cities since I'm such a foodie and enjoy searching out new places whenever I'm on the road with the team. If there's a demand for this information, maybe would be a good summer project to work on.

But to answer your question, my number one food city would have to be New York City. I have some staples I seek out pretty much every time I'm in the Big Apple: Bucatini alla carbonara from Barbuto, enchiladas de mole from Mesa Coyoacan in Williamsburg, a red velvet cupcake from Magnolia, pork buns and ramen from Momofuku. But there's always something new to try when you're in New York too.

Vancouver is home to my favorite road restaurant and one of my favorite restaurants in general in Ask For Luigi, a small, intimate Italian dream on the edge of the Railtown district (the Wild Boar ragu is one of the best dishes I've ever tasted)

Whenever I'm in Boston, I always head to the Wharf district for lobster. Last time, I ordered a 1.5 pound whole lobster with a side of fries for lunch for $12.99. Can't beat that.

Frontera Grill in Chicago is amazing for Mexican food. So too is Oyamel near the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

Even some of the smaller stops have great food. You just have to look a little harder to find them (or ask a local). Gabriel's Gate in Buffalo has the best wings I've ever tasted: perfectly crispy, perfectly sauced, just the right amount of heat.

Roma Café in Detroit is an old school Italian joint with one of the juiciest steaks I've ever had the pleasure of eating.

Maybe I should just go ahead and write that food guide.

As a Bolts fan that lives in California and I too would like to know some good eating places or even a good place to grab a brew next year. (via @_DontFeedPhil_)

Unfortunately, in its current state, the area around the arena doesn't offer all that much in the way of good food. There's food, yes. But food that you'll rave about is harder to come by. That'll change soon enough once Lightning owner Jeff Vinik sees his vision for the arena district come to fruition.

Currently, my favorite stop near the AMALIE is Café Dufrain across the channel on Harbour Island. I always get the shrimp tacos with homemade potato chips, but anything from this hidden gem is typically delicious.

Bavaro's downtown on Franklin Street has really good pasta and wood-fired pizzas at an extremely affordable price. This spot is a regular in my lunch rotation. You can mix and match pastas and sauces on the cheap. Penne Bolognese for $7.99? Yes please.

Otherwise, you'll have to venture away from the arena to truly experience some of Tampa's culinary gems: The Refinery, Ichicoro and Ella's in Seminole Heights; Edison across from the University of Tampa; Ulele for charbroiled oysters loaded with garlic, butter and Parmesan cheese; Timpano's for cast iron skillet-roasted mussels; Osteria Natalina for some of the best Italian the area has to offer.

Same goes for beer. If you're not too picky about your brew (i.e., you like Budweiser, Coors Light, Corona, etc.), there are plenty of places around the arena to imbibe. Ferg's is right across Channelside Drive from the arena and always has a party-like atmosphere. Hattrick's is a Tampa institution hockey bar with good wings (get them shake and bake style) and beer.

But, if you're a craft beer lover like I am, the others, again, are more limited. Pourhouse in the Channel District has an extensive beer list but is a bit of a hike if you're walking to the arena. World of Beer in Hyde Park is even further away but has hundreds of beers and has the added benefit of being located in Tampa's main party area. For some of the best local craft brews, you'll have to get in your car and travel a bit. Cigar City Brewing is a quick 10-minute drive from the arena and put the Tampa beer scene on the map. My favorite breweries, however, are across the bay in Pinellas County but well worth traveling to if you have the time. Green Bench in St. Petersburg has a really nice courtyard in which to enjoy their IPAs, sours and meads. Cycle Brewing just down the street in St. Petersburg always has a plethora of delicious IPAs to try. And probably my favorite, 7venth Sun un in Dunedin, is a hike to get to (45 minutes from downtown Tampa) but their Time Bomb IPA will quickly make you forget how long you drove to taste it. 7venth Sun is supposed to open a second location in Seminole Heights soon (not soon enough for me, however).

Ybor City has seen an explosion in new breweries opening -- Rock Brothers Brewing, Cigar City Cider and Mead, Coppertail -- to go along with the established Tampa Bay Brewing Company. And they're all just a quick, five-minute trolley ride away from the arena.

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