Author: Joe Yerdon

Vincent Lecavalier

Moving on without Lecavalier will be tricky for Tampa Bay


Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman’s decision to buy out longtime captain and Stanley Cup winner Vincent Lecavalier was a hard one for him to make. It was difficult from a financial standpoint as well as one for building their team.

The Lightning have no problems figuring out who plays on their top line. Steven Stamkos slots in at center and Martin St. Louis on the right wing. Cutting loose Lecavalier left a gaping hole at center on the second line. Enter free agent Valtteri Filppula.

The Lightning signed Filppula away from Detroit to the tune of five years and $25 million. You might be thinking he’s not as good as Lecavalier but over the past few seasons, and you might be right.

Going back to the 2010-11 season, Filppula has 48 goals and 74 assists in 193 games over three seasons. In that same span, Lecavalier has played in 168 games with 57 goals with 78 assists. Fewer games played due to injury but more offense overall.

When you add 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Drouin to the mix, you’re adding a guy who comes with tremendous offensive potential and someone who might slide onto either line. That means more points to go around. At least, that’s what coach Jon Cooper is hoping for.

Having to go through their first season without Lecavalier since 1997-98 is going to be hard for many fans in Tampa. If Filppula can’t pick up where Lecavalier left off and he goes on to thrive in Philadelphia, it won’t be the heat or the humidity making things uncomfortable in Florida.

Burmistrov blames Noel and Jokinen for Winnipeg struggles

Alex Burmistrov

Alex Burmistrov is headed to the KHL next season but he’s not leaving without sounding off about what went wrong in his time with the Winnipeg Jets.

In speaking with Russia’s Sport-Express (link in Russian), Burmistrov pointed a finger at both coach Claude Noel and center Olli Jokinen for why he was seemingly buried last year. According to the (poor) translation of the story, some of his issues with Noel were know by now.

During the lockout Burmistrov wanted to play in the KHL, but the team and Noel had him play with St. John’s in the AHL instead. In 22 games with the IceCaps, he scored just two goals with nine assists. For what it’s worth, Noel has said he wasn’t aware of Burmistrov’s issues with him.

The issues with Jokinen, however, are new. Burmistrov wondered why the 15-year veteran continued to log top-six minutes despite playing poorly while he was kept seemingly buried.

For what it’s worth, Jokinen averaged two more minutes of ice time per game than Burmistrov and had just four more points than him. Maybe he had just cause to complain but when you’re just 21 years-old, those complaints don’t get you very far.

Burmistrov will play for Ak Bars Kazan next season.

Lightning’s Drouin misses Canada’s junior camp with sore foot

Jonathan Drouin

Lightning fans may have gulped a bit at the news of 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Drouin missing out on Team Canada’s World Junior camp with a sore foot.

Drouin, the third overall pick in this summer’s draft, was held off the ice for the two-day warm up before heading to Lake Placid. As it was, this would’ve been the one chance for him to skate with the rest of Team Canada’s invitees as coach Brent Sutter won’t be bringing any of last year’s World Junior team members (Nathan MacKinnon, Morgan Rielly, and Griffin Reinhart) to New York.

As for Drouin’s foot, it’s merely sore and he’s being kept off the ice as a precaution. Team Canada already knows what kind of player they’ve got in him and there’s no doubt the Lightning are happy to see them not pushing him just to practice.

Tampa Bay has big questions in goal

Ben Bishop

Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop make up Tampa Bay’s goalie tandem and while they make for the league’s tallest duo, their play last season didn’t make them feared.

Lindback, acquired from Nashville last summer, got the bulk of the starts before going down with an ankle injury and was perfectly average. While he went 10-10-1 he stopped pucks at a .902 clip with a 2.90 goals-against average.

Bishop was acquired later in the season in a deal with Ottawa that saw Cory Conacher go the other way. In his brief audition to show what he’s got, he went 3-4-1 and put up better save numbers (.914 SV%) than Lindback, but the goals kept coming (2.99 GAA).

It was a short season with small sample sizes all over the place for both goalies, but that has to worry folks in Tampa. Part of their struggles have to do with Tampa’s rather putrid defense as well as a mid-season coaching change with Guy Boucher swept out and Jon Cooper ushered in. Their inexperience at the NHL level didn’t help either.

Before last season the two goalies combined for 61 NHL games played with Lindback have just 38 of those he was brought in to be the man. Now they’ll battle it out to see who earns the starting nod. Buckle up Lightning fans, it could be a bumpy ride.

Ponikarovsky jumps to KHL, signs two-year deal with SKA

Alexei Ponikarovsky

Ilya Kovalchuk will have familiar company joining him in Russia.

Igor Eronko reports Devils forward Alexei Ponikarovsky has signed a two-year deal in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. There he’ll team up with Kovalchuk and aim to win the Gagarin Cup to make up for the Stanley Cup they couldn’t win in 2012 with New Jersey.

Since being traded by Toronto in the 2009-10 season, Ponikarovsky’s career has seen him bounce to five different teams (Pittsburgh, Carolina, Los Angeles, New Jersey, and Winnipeg) and two different tours with the Devils. In those three seasons he’s scored a total of 25 goals, the kinds of numbers he used to put up in a single season with the Leafs.

Now that he’s off to Russia, it gives him a chance to find a spark in his game yet again. After hopping from team to team here, this move may actually be for the best.