Tampa Bay Lightning: Did They Do Enough This Offseason to Become Contenders?
Tampa Bay had a lot of questions coming into the 2012 offseason. After finishing 21st in the league—third in the Southeast division with 84 points, many were left scratching their heads.
Who is going to be the top goaltender? What can we do about the league's worst defense? How do we get younger?
Tampa Bay was decimated by injury last season. The Bolts had just three players play in all 82 games last season, and they had nine starters out of the line up at one point.
Mathieu Garon, Tampa's top goaltender, tore his groin in early March and missed 16 games.
The faces of the Tampa franchise, with the exception of Steven Stamkos, are getting old. Vincent Lecavalier is 32. Martin St. Louis is 37. Ryan Malone is 32.
Defensively, the Bolts were the worst in the league, giving up 281 goals last season. That was 17 goals more than Toronto who were 29th.
A dismantled defense didn't help the Tampa penalty kill which finished 26th in the league and gave up 12 shorthanded goals.
But the offseason allows teams, like the Lightning, to recharge, and in some cases, to reload.
Here is what the Bolts have done this offseason.
Tampa knew they needed to get younger and add depth defensively. In the 2012 draft, they accomplished both.
The Lightning drafted a defenseman in the first and second round and added a goalie with the 19th pick in the first round.
10th-Slater Koekkoek Defense
19th-Andrey Vasilevskiy Goaltender
40th-Dylan Blujus Defense
53rd-Brian Hart Right Wing
71st-Tanner Richard Center
101st-Cedric Paquette Center
161st-Jake Dotchin Defense
202nd-Nikita Gusev Left Wing
Tampa made two offseason deals to help answer the questions of age and goaltending.
June 15: Tampa acquired goaltender Anders Lindback, forward Kyle Wilson and a 2012 seventh-round pick for goaltender Sebastian Caron—two 2012 second-round picks and a 2013 third-round pick.
June 23: The Bolts acquired the rights to forward Benoit Pouliot in exchange for Michel Ouellet and a fifth-round pick in 2012.
The Lindback trade sparked a new debate as to who would be the top goaltender in Tampa.
Lindback was a backup to Pekka Rinne in Nashville and saw limited time. On the other hand, Mathieu Garon tore his groin and missed 16 games last season.
The question is no longer what are the Bolts going to do about their goaltending but more who is going to do it.
Two NHL goalies and a talented goaltending draft-pick give the Bolts options in net.
The Bolts continued to target their blue-line deficiencies when free agency began on July 1. Tampa, not considered in the running for top defensive free-agent Ryan Suter, went after the next best thing.
The Bolts signed Carle to a six-year deal worth $5.5 million per year.
Carle played with Tampa in 2008-09 for 12 games before heading to Philadelphia. Carle had been in Philly ever since, but now he's back in the Bay.
When the races began in free agency, Tampa quickly got on the board by signing veteran defenseman Sami Salo from Vancouver.
Salo has played in 761 career games, including stints in Vancouver and Ottawa. He has 100 career playoff games which will be a welcome addition to the locker room come next April.
The Finland native finished last season with 25 points and was a plus-7 player with the Canucks.
Two big defensive signings for the Bolts that desperately needed to improve on the blue line.
Tampa seems to have addressed all the offseason questions, but two more come to mind.
Did they do enough?
Can the Bolts make a run like in 2004?