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Top Offseason Stories To Watch: Goaltending Situation

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Once considered a team to be deficient in net, the Tampa Bay Lightning all of a sudden appear as if they are dealing from strength at the goaltender position.

Including Anders Lindback, who was acquired late last week in a trade with the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay now has six netminders currently under contract when also factoring in Mathieu Garon, Riku Helenius, Dustin Tokarski, Jaroslav Janus and Pat Nagle.

That said, despite general manager Steve Yzerman fulfilling what was perceived to be the team’s first and foremost priority this summer, he will still have some important decisions to make – such as what to do with Janus, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 1 – regarding personnel between the pipes.

That, however, is to be somewhat expected with so many options now in goal.

While Yzerman stopped short of naming Lindback, 24, the team’s definite starting goaltender for the upcoming 2012-13 season, he did say the 6-foot-6 native of Sweden would instead compete with Garon for the highly-coveted slot.

With moves like this, Mathieu Garon's all-out style between the pipes had the Lightning in the playoff hunt prior to his succumbing to a season-ending injury. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

And with roster spots expected to be at a premium again this season, the responsibility to impress Yzerman and the rest of the Lightning brass will undoubtedly fall on the players, who will determine for themselves their own fate based on whom performs best at the team’s annual training camp.

Lindback, though, publicly stated his desire to be a bona fide starting goaltender in the NHL, but is relatively unproven. While serving in a backup role in Nashville behind Pekka Rinne, one of the NHL's best goalies, Lindback has appeared in only 38 games over two seasons, posting a 16-13-2 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

“I was in a tough spot behind Pekka Rinne,” Lindback said shortly after being acquired by the Lightning. “My dream all my life has been to be a number one goalie in the NHL and I think I have a great opportunity to be that in Tampa Bay.”

Garon, meanwhile, looked strong down the stretch towards the end of last season, and proved critical in helping the Lightning make a late-season push for the playoffs prior to sustaining a season-ending groin injury in early March. There is also Tokarski, who has won championships at every level, including most recently the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup, and Helenius, lured back to North America from Europe earlier this month after leading JYP of Finland’s SM-liiga to a league title.

Adding to the intrigue is also the team’s high draft stock heading into Friday’s first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, in which Tampa Bay holds both the 10th and 19th positions. With three goaltenders rated high enough by NHL Central Scouting to warrant an early selection including Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk and Andrei Vasilevski, the young group of netminders already in the pipeline could be bolstered further depending on what Yzerman chooses to do.

But while the team’s goaltending situation will be one worth continuing to monitor throughout the remainder of the summer, there is already a lot for Yzerman to consider in the present.

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