NHL Free Agency: 3 Goalies the Tampa Bay Lightning Could Still Pursue
With the lockout in full swing, the threat of missing games in the 2012-13 season is a concern. That’s not a good situation for the Tampa Bay Lightning that still have questions in goal. A shortened season could open the door to the Bolts pursuing some goaltenders in a pinch.
Tampa’s offseason has changed the attitude in the community following a disappointing 2011-12 campaign. With additions of high-profile defensemen like Sami Salo and Matt Carle, the league’s worst defense in 2011 should be much improved, whenever the NHL resumes play.
In goal, the Bolts brought in backup goaltender Anders Lindback from Nashville. Mathieu Garon looks to be healthy, following a late-season groin injury.
If this duo isn’t the answer for the Lightning this season, pursuing these three goaltenders may help the Bolts―especially if it’s a shortened campaign.
Dwayne Roloson scratched his way into the hearts of Lightning fans with his performance in 2010-11. The Tampa version of Martin Brodeur brought the Bolts within one game of the Stanley Cup finals.
The magic from that postseason run brought high hopes last season. But, the magic never came back. Roloson went 13-16-3 with a 3.66 goals-against average.
He platooned in goal with Garon, but eventually conceded the starting role. Garon has a contract with the Lightning for 2012-13. Roloson doesn’t. He doesn’t have a contract with an NHL team at all.
Despite his struggles last season, Roloson could be a great pick up, or re-signing for the Bolts. If the NHL lockout leads to a shortened season, teams’ margin for error is slim.
In an 82-game season, teams with unproven goaltenders can afford a few hiccups and growing pains. A shortened season adds a lot of pressure to unproven goaltenders, especially in the unique Lightning system under Guy Boucher.
There’s no learning curve for Roloson at 43-years-old. Maybe, he has just one last hurrah in him.
Sticking with the aging goaltender and shortened season themes, the Bolts may want to take a run at Dominik Hasek.
The Dominator has played in 735 career NHL games and has apparently been keeping in shape. He hasn’t played in the NHL since 2007-08 with the Detroit Red Wings, but Hasek and his agent feel as if he is NHL-ready.
At 47-years-old, he may not be ready for an 82-game season. That’s great news if the lockout cuts the upcoming season short.
HC Pardubice in the Czech Extraliga plays a 52-game season. They won the league crown in 2010 and 2012. Hasek re-joined the team in 2009.
Hasek is a proven winner and, with all the career games accrued, not much would surprise him. A spot with the Lightning for a year might be a great asset, especially to teach the two young goaltenders in Lindback and Dustin Tokarski.
Currently a group 3 free agent, Antero Niittymaki is another veteran goaltender the Bolts could pursue, again. Niittymaki has seven NHL seasons to his name, including a successful season with Tampa in 2009-10.
In 2010, the Finnish goalie went 21-18-5 in 49 games. He even posted a 2.87 goals-against average―third lowest in his career.
Tampa finished that year 34-36-12 and missed out on the playoffs. Niittymaki split time with Mike Smith and actually had a much better record than Smith. Yes, Tampa, the same Mike Smith that just led the Phoenix Coyotes to the postseason.
Despite familiarity with the team and the community, the 32-year old hasn’t played for Boucher. Boucher was hired following the 2010 season. Niitymaki joined the San Jose Sharks that season.
A career 95-86-31 record is acceptable, especially if the Bolts lose a goaltender to injury, want additional depth or want to save their youngest goaltenders from a premature call-up.
His two-year deal that expired with the Sharks was worth $2 million per season. Tampa has the cap-room currently with nearly $7 million in space. The terms of a new collective bargaining agreement could adjust that, but Niitymaki could be a good insurance pick up for the Bolts.