Free Agent List… UFA: Alex Tanguay, Stephane Veilleux, David Hale, Kurtis Foster, Antero Niittymaki, Zenon Konopka RFA: Paul Ranger, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, Mike Lundin, Paul Szczechura, Blair Jones
Salary Cap Space… About $20 million Summer Shopping List… 1 Top-six forward - Alexei Ponikarovsky or Lee Stempniak 1 Third-line center - Kyle Wellwood or Manny Malhotra 1 1A/1B goaltender - Martin Biron or Peter Budaj Possible Trade Bait… C Vincent Lecavalier RW Martin St. Louis
Top 5 Prospects… 1. Carter Ashton, RW 2. Richard Panik, RW 3. Dustin Tokarski, G 4. Ty Wishart, D 5. Blair Jones, C
Outlook… After the hiring of new owner Jeff Vinik and GM Steve Yzerman, there is some much-needed positive energy in Tampa. The young building blocks are in place with Stamkos and Hedman, and they also have a nice compliment of veterans. The problem I see with the Lightning, though, is the bottom six forwards.
To have a successful team that truly competes for a playoff spot, you need those glue-guys that kill penalties, win faceoffs, etc… if anyone knows that, it should be Yzerman! Fixing the grit-lines should be a focus of his this summer.
It will also be interesting to see what direction they go with the #5 overall pick. Already stocked with young talent, they’ll be adding another high-end prospect. One of three top defensemen (Fowler, Gormley, Gudbranson) or a pure goal-scorer (Brett Connolly) will be a solid first selection for Yzerman and company.
If the new blood in the front office plays their chips right, the Lightning are a team that could surprise next season.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.