With the Lightning acquiring scoring wing Simon Gagne from the Philadelphia Flyers, the Lightning roster is starting to fill out, and much unlike previous off-seasons in Tampa Bay, the outlook is bright and full of promise. In past seasons, the Lightning signed multiple questionable defensemen or dropped a ton of money on a hot-off-a-great-Final-appearance Ryan Malone. What general manager Steve Yzerman has done this year is nothing short of amazing.
It started with hiring Guy Boucher out of the AHL to be the new head coach. It was then followed at the NHL draft as the Lightning selected potential high-scoring winger Brett Connolly. Once free agency began, Yzerman traded contractual albatross Andrej Meszaros to Philadelphia for a second round pick, said good-bye to goalie Antero Niittymaki and hello to new netminder Dan Ellis.
He then signed franchise star Martin St. Louis to a four-year extension and brought back defenseman Pavel Kubina while also signing away former Avs defender Brett Clark. Not bad. Yzerman then brings back the aura of success by sprucing up the decor with photos from the Lightning’s Stanley Cup season and all of a sudden the shape of the Lightning starts to look stunningly good and it’s all on the new GM for getting it done. It’s been so seemingly good that some writers are giving it poetic names as Sean Gentille of The Sporting News calls it, it’s the “Summer of Stevie.”
Is Yzerman’s work finished? No. But in two months on the job, he’s shown almost everything you could expect of him: His moves have been savvy, shrewd and balanced between long-term goals and short-term success. Maybe most impressively, he’s got players, coaches and fans believing in him and his plan.
Plus he’s got that Stamkos guy hanging around. Not a bad start.
Simon Gagne -Vincent Lecavalier – Martin St. Louis
Teddy Purcell – Steven Stamkos – Steve Downie
Ryan Malone – Nate Thompson – Johan Harju
Paul Szczechura – James Wright – Blair Jones
Fontana adds that Purcell and Malone could certainly switch off between lines and that Stamkos and Lecavalier could also do the same as well to juggle things around, but that top six is pretty outstanding. Sure there’s a lot of no-name action going on with those two lines, but they won’t be expected to carry the burden for the Lightning. They’d also be two ridiculously young lines.
Add that into what amounts to be a very talented and veteran defense (Pavel Kubina, Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Brett Clark, Mike Lundin, Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff) as well as a solid goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis and the Lightning look to be pretty decent.
Just think, this overhaul of what was a miserable team the last few years took just a few months under Steve Yzerman. If the results pan out in reality the way they appear to be set to on paper, Yzerman will be a legend in two cities rather than just one.