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Team Reset

Lightning add goalie McElhinney, depth on defense

Veteran expected to back up Vasilevskiy; Schenn, Witkowski provide insurance

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Tampa Bay Lightning:

The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a relatively quiet offseason, signing veteran goaltender Curtis McElhinney and depth defensemen Luke Schenn and Luke Witkowski on July 1.

McElhinney, who signed a two-year contract, is likely to replace Louis Domingue as the backup to No. 1 goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Domingue, who is in the final year of his contract, was 21-5-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .908 save percentage last season.

"Being able to bring in that veteran presence that's seen a lot before and can be a calming presence in our locker room, that was part of the appeal of bringing Curtis in," Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said.

Without NHL salary cap space to make a big splash in free agency after being swept in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Columbus Blue Jackets following their NHL record-tying 62-win season, the Lightning opted to make smaller moves.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Schenn (one-year contract) and Witkowski (two-year contract) were signed to provide depth following the departures of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi as free agents. Schenn is expected to compete for a regular spot in the lineup, with Witkowski more likely to be the seventh or eighth defenseman.

"We really liked the way Luke ended the season in Vancouver," BriseBois said. "He obviously brings some experience, some size (6-foot-2, 221 pounds). He's still in his 20s but he's got over 700 games in the NHL. He is continuing to improve as a player. He can bring some physicality and size to our back end."

Here is what the Lightning look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Curtis McElhinney, G: The 36-year-old was 20-11-2 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 33 regular-season games for the Carolina Hurricanes last season and went 3-2 with a 2.01 GAA and .930 save percentage in five playoff games. … Luke Schenn, D: The 29-year-old will play for his sixth team in the past five seasons. He split last season with the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks and had two assists in 26 games. Schenn has 145 points (30 goals, 115 assists) in 734 NHL games. … Luke Witkowski, D: The 29-year-old spent his first three NHL seasons with the Lightning before signing with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1, 2017. He has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 119 NHL games.

Video: McElhinney on signing two-year deal with Lightning

 

Key departures

Steve Yzerman, senior adviser: He resigned as general manager before last season and took on an advisory role. After the season, Yzerman left to become general manager of the Red Wings. … Ryan Callahan, F: The 34-year-old was placed on long-term injured reserve with a degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine. Callahan had 132 points (54 goals, 78 assists) in 307 games with Tampa Bay after he was acquired from the New York Rangers on March 5, 2014. … J.T. Miller, F: The 26-year-old was traded to the Canucks on June 22 for goalie Marek Mazanec, a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Miller had 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 75 games last season. … Anton Stralman, D: Signed with the Florida Panthers on July 1, Stralman, who turns 33 on Aug. 1, had 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 47 games last season. … Dan Girardi, D: The Lightning announced they would not re-sign the 35-year-old unrestricted free agent who had 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 62 games last season.

 

On the cusp

Callan Foote, D: The 20-year-old, who was the No. 14 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, will have every opportunity to compete for a roster spot in training camp. Foote had 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 76 games with Syracuse in the American Hockey League last season. … Carter Verhaeghe, F: In his second season with Syracuse, Verhaeghe, who turns 24 on Aug. 14, won the AHL scoring title with 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 76 games last season. … Alexander Volkov, F: A second-round pick (No. 48) in the 2017 NHL Draft, Volkov, who turns 22 on Aug. 2, has 46 goals in two seasons with Syracuse.

 

What they still need

To sign restricted free agent center Brayden Point, who had an NHL career-high 92 points (41 goals, 51 assists) in 79 games last season. The 23-year-old led the League with 20 power-play goals.

 

Fantasy focus

Forward Ondrej Palat could capture a first-line and power-play role this season. He missed a combined 44 games during the past two seasons but has been fantasy relevant when healthy. Palat has scored at least 52 points in each of the three seasons he's played a minimum of 75 games. He's even more likely to gain a first power-play role with Miller having been traded to the Canucks. -- Rob Reese

 

Projected lineup

Tyler Johnson -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat -- Steven Stamkos -- Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn -- Anthony Cirelli -- Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne -- Cedric Paquette -- Carter Verhaeghe

Victor Hedman -- Mikhail Sergachev

Ryan McDonagh -- Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn -- Callan Foote

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

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