Biggest Ups and Downs of Tampa Bay Lightning's 2013 Offseason
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The Tampa Bay Lightning had one of the more quiet offseasons around the NHL, but they still had some decisive ups and downs along the way. The regular season is less than two months away, and Lightning fans can’t wait to see the new team on the ice.
The offseason included some big-risk and big-reward moves. The path through free agency and the draft could provide the Lightning with the necessary pieces to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
With the Lightning’s training camp opening on Sept. 11, we aren’t far from the action. Here’s a recap of the biggest ups and downs in the Tampa Bay offseason this year.
Down: Doing Nothing
It's been a while since Mattias Ohlund has been on the blue line for the Lightning. The Bolts didn't make any moves to improve on defense this offseason.
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Tampa Bay had salary-cap room and motivation to improve its defense, but the Bolts decided to do nothing. With defensemen like Rob Scuderi, Michael Rozsival and Andrew Ference on the market, there was opportunity to improve on the free-agent market.
Even with the thought of moving a player like Ryan Malone or a draft pick in 2014, the Lightning couldn’t pull the trigger and bring new blood into the blue line. The only real transaction on defense was re-signing Mark Barberio.
Even with the optimism surrounding coach Jon Cooper, fans have to be disappointed in the lack of movement on the blue line.
Down: Goodbye, Captain
Regardless of how difficult the contract was, seeing Vincent Lecavalier go to a new team was a down moment for the Lightning.
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Arguably the biggest move of the offseason for the Bolts was the buyout of Vincent Lecavalier. Was it all that shocking? No, not really. Was it deserved? That’s debatable. The issue with this move wasn’t the move itself, but the replacement.
Lecavalier’s deal cost the Lightning nearly $8 million per season through 2020. Getting that money off the books was a smart move, but that doesn’t mean the front office needed to replace that contract with another ridiculous contract.
Valtteri Filppula signed a five-year, $5 million-per-year deal to replace Lecavalier. This is the biggest risk-and-reward move the Lightning made. If it doesn’t pan out, they could be looking at another buyout soon.
Up: Coaching Changes
Rick Bowness helped bring the Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning will hope for similar success.
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While it’s the player transactions that get the most attention, the Bolts should be excited about two big moves made behind the bench. The Lightning added former University of Denver head coach George Gwozdecky and Rick Bowness—formerly associate coach with the Vancouver Canucks.
Gwozdecky adds another great presence for the young roster players. He spent 19 seasons at DU, winning two national championships. He also brings a winning mentality. His Denver squad was the only team in the NCAA to win 20 games every season over the last 12 seasons.
Bowness brings NHL experience to a relatively inexperienced coaching staff. Bowness has 24 years of NHL experience, including being a part of the Canucks team that made the Stanley Cup Final in 2011—the same year the Bolts were one goal away.
These are exciting moves for the Lightning organization.
Up: Strong Draft
Adam Erne has impressed this offseason, He was part of another strong draft year for the Bolts.
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Tampa Bay’s prospect system just keeps growing with talented players. This year’s draft class included a potential top-six forward in Jonathan Drouin and a solid selection in the second round, Adam Erne. Erne impressed at Team USA’s world junior evaluation camp, which makes a strong case for him to be invited back to preseason camp.
The Lightning also added another goaltender, Kristers Gudlevskis, in the third round, but most of the excitement surrounds Drouin. The Lightning could use another top-six forward, especially if they get the opportunity to move Ryan Malone.
The impressive six-pick draft was one of the biggest ups for the Lightning this offseason.