Despite a pretty successful year — 46 wins, 101 points, snapping a two-year playoff drought — the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t rest on their laurels this offseason.
Instead, Steve Yzerman emerged as one of this summer’s most active GMs, making a series of moves that put his team in the conversation of Eastern Conference elites. Tampa Bay went big on vets in free agency, adding the likes of Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov and Brenden Morrow while retaining the services of Ryan Callahan — keeping the prize piece acquired when Martin St. Louis went to the Rangers at the trade deadline.
Speaking of trades, there were plenty of those too.
Yzerman was like a blackjack dealer on speed. The day prior to free agency, he flipped Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipped Gagner to Phoenix (along with B.J. Crombeen) for a sixth-round pick. Just hours after moving Gagner, Yzerman was at it again, sending forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks.
Oh yeah, he also acquired d-man Jason Garrison from Vancouver on draft day. There was that too.
When the dust finally settled, the fruits of Yzerman’s labor were evident — he rewarded his young players (Calder nominees Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat got matching three-year, $10M deals; Vezina finalist Ben Bishop got a two-year extension), brought in experienced vets, but also cleared roster space for some of the club’s ballyhooed prospects to try and make the leap, like Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Brett Connolly, Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne.
As such, the Lightning look to be a force for next season. There’s depth down the middle in Boyle, Johnson, Steve Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula; a solid top-six defense in Stralman, Garrison, Victor Hedman, Matt Carle, Radko Gudas and Eric Brewer; better depth in goal (important, as things fell apart in the playoffs once Bishop went down and Anders Lindback was forced into duty) and a Jack Adams finalist behind the bench in Jon Cooper.
Yzerman was careful not to get too excited following all his moving and shaking this summer. But he couldn’t deny being happy with how the plan came together.
“We like the moves that we’ve made,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.”