Gotta love it when a plan comes together.
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big free agent splash by bringing aboard two key members to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup run — center Brian Boyle and defenseman Anton Stralman.
And, per the Tampa Tribune, a prominent ex-Blueshirt played a big role bringing them aboard:
[Lightning GM Steve] Yzerman said he solicited information on Stralman and Boyle with Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, who was captain of the Rangers and played with both players before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in March, .
“We got (Callahan’s) thoughts on them, make sure that what we see of them as players is correct and get the character reference and if they will fit into our locker room,’’ Yzerman said. “So, he was a wealth of information for us.’’
No huge surprise. The Callahan-Boyle-Stralman trio spent parts of three years together in New York — for Boyle and Callahan, it was five — and as the free agent market began to unfold, it was clear the Lightning were freeing up money for UFA targets (which, hindsight being 20/20, were guys Callahan provided valuable intel on.)
On Sunday, Yzerman made a flurry of moves designed to land said targets, first shipping Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, then flipping Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to Phoenix for a draft pick. Shortly thereafter, Yzerman sent gritty forward Nate Thompson to Anaheim for a pair of picks — and when the dust settled, the Lightning GM suddenly had $9 million in cap space.
The moves were in lockstep with the plan Tampa Bay executed throughout the offseason: clear cap space and roster room.
Previous transactions also freed up money (like the compliance buyout for Ryan Malone) so the club could spend dollars to improve areas of need — notably on defense, where, in addition to Stralman, ex-Canuck Jason Garrison was brought aboard.
The plan also called for Yzerman to clear roster room so his young forward prospects could make the leap to the NHL. It worked last year with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat — who put forth Calder-worthy seasons — and the Bolts are hopeful it’ll work again now with the likes of Jonathan Drouin (3rd overall, ’13) and Brett Connolly (6th overall, ’10).
Overall, Yzerman finished his work — “I don’t see us doing a whole lot [more],” he said yesterday — sounding pretty happy with how it all came together.
“We like the moves that we’ve made,” Yzerman said. “I’m cautiously optimistic and I like what we’ve been able to do and I’m pleased.
“And the end of the day on July 1, we feel OK.”