The Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the huge surprises in 2010-11 after a disappointing season the year before. A new owner, GM and coach brought the team all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost out to the Boston Bruins. The Lightning enter the offseason looking to build on that success, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Midseason acquisition Dwayne Roloson was re-signed to be Tampa’s #1 goaltender, but as his age he will need a very good backup capable of starting 20-25 games. Their defense will be better in 2011-12, as they will get a full season out of Eric Brewer, and they expect Victor Hedman to continue to raise his game as he gains more experience in the league. The forwards are where things will get interesting, as Steven Stamkos is without a contract, Ted Purcell may be going to arbitration and it is unlikely that Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim will be re-signed. Tampa had major changes last year at the forward position, and did justfine, so perhaps they can expect the same this summer.
The Lightning have just north of $18M in cap space, and although that number seems high, it will get eaten up pretty quickly. Re-signing Steven Stamkos will cost $7M to $8M depending on his demands and the threat of an offer sheet. Ted Purcell could earn $2.5M to $3M if he goes to arbitration. Whoever they sign to backup Roloson (Tampa is hoping for Mike Smith) will cost another $1.5M to $2.0M. On the high end, they will have already brought that number down to $5M, without even finding UFAs to play LW on the second and third lines. It is possible Tampa will give one of those spots to top prospects Carter Ashton or Brett Connolly. They could trade Ryan Malone to get some more cap space, but that will only create another hole in the lineup.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 2011-12 ROSTER (using CAPGEEK CAP CALCULATOR)
Ryan Malone ($4.500m) / Steven Stamkos ($0.000m) / Martin St. Louis ($5.625m)
2ND LINE LW ($0.000m) / Vincent Lecavalier ($7.727m) / Ted Purcell ($0.000m)
3RD LINE LW ($0.000m) / Dominic Moore ($1.100m) / Steve Downie ($1.850m)
Dana Tyrell ($0.845m) / Nate Thompson ($0.900m) / Adam Hall ($0.600m)
Blair Jones ($0.525m)
Eric Brewer ($3.850m) / Victor Hedman ($3.500m)
Mattias Ohlund ($3.607m) / Pavel Kubina ($3.850m)
Brett Clark ($1.500m) / Marc-Andre Bergeron ($1.000m)
Bruno Gervais ($0.550m)
Dwayne Roloson ($3.000m) / BACKUP GOALIE ($0.000m)
BUYOUTS: Vaclav Prospal ($1.166m) / Todd Fedoruk ($0.375m)
SALARY CAP: $64,300,000
CAP PAYROLL: $46,071,916
CAP SPACE: $18,228,084
Barring something drastic (like Stamkos leaving), Tampa will make the playoffs next season and continue to be one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch. However, the difference between being a good team and being a great team lies in the hands of Steve Yzerman. This will be one of those teams where fans should “expect the unexpected” over the next month.
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.