Lightning Bolt Ahead Early in The Offseason
Photo courtesy of Andre Forget / QMI AGENCY
By Andrew Levengood (@bednarik602)
In the 2012 offseason the only certain thing for the Tampa bay Lightning was that they had to acquire a goaltender, and before the draft or free agency started they sent backup goaltender Sebastian Caron, and two second round picks from this year’s draft and a third round choice in the 2013 draft to the Nashville Predators for Anders Lindback, Kyle Wilson, and a seventh round pick in this year’s draft. Acquiring Lindback is the key to the entire offseason for the Bolts. His acquisition gives them a young goalie with a very high ceiling to replace the rag tag group of veteran goalies that they played last season that registered the league worst 3.39 goals against average.
In the 2012 entry draft the Lightning used their two first round selections on defenseman Slater Koekkoek and goalie Andrei Vasilevski. Though these two players will not likely see any NHL time this season they depicted some of what General Manager Steve Yzerman has planned.
As previously stated the Lightning needed to get better in goal, and with the drafting of Vasilevski and the trade for Lindback the Bolts have given themselves a goalie for the immediate future and one for the distant future. Lindback and Vasilevski could be competing for the starting spot on the team in three to five years the same way Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo did in Vancouver this year.
The front office has also shown that it values defenseman highly and beefing up the Lightning’s blue line is imperative for this season. With the drafting of Koekkoek (who was among eight defenseman taken in the first ten picks) and the qualifying offers sent to young defenseman Lee, Aulie, Oberg, and Mikkelson (all under 25), Yzerman has proved that he is among the large group of NHL General Managers who are focusing on creating a strong defense first team.
When free agency flood gates open it is unlikely that the Bolts will be handing out cash to big name free agents but it is not unlikely that they add another strong defenseman or two to protect the blue line in front of the young Lindback (who has spent his whole career stuck behind superstar Pekka Rinne and has only played in 38 NHL games). The Lightning also implore a strategy that is uncommon in sport but is widely recognized from the movie/book Moneyball. The Lightning use a statistical analyst, Michael Peterson, in their front office to assist General Manager Steve Yzerman in decision making. Through saber-metrics (the statistical method used by Billy Beane in Moneyball) the Lightning makes the most out of their cap situation and their lack of huge budgets that some other larger market teams are equipped with.
With these statistical analysis the Lightning could make some interesting movement in free agency, but don’t expect them to shell out the huge amounts of cash other teams will for free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. And because of these overpriced free agents each lower player will get higher offers from some teams desperately trying to stay relevant (for example the way the Calgary Flames grossly overpaid defenseman Dennis Wideman). This could cause the Lightning to lose defenseman Bruno Gervais as well as he could receive offers above what the Lightning are willing to pay. But despite how the Lightning fare in free agency they already are off to a great start with their draft class and the acquisitions of Anders Lindback and the rights to Benoit Pouliot.