Ranking the Top 5 Offseason Moves for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014
The Tampa Bay Lightning had one of their busiest offseasons in recent history this year. The Bolts upgraded every aspect of their roster in an attempt establish themselves as a perennial playoff team. There have been a few transactions this offseason that were more important than others.
Lightning fans know how busy the front office has been this summer. The team made 23 roster moves after June 1, including signings, re-signings, trades and buyouts.
It would be tough to find a team that's been more active this offseason than the Lightning. With such high turnover, pay attention to the chemistry that develops (or doesn't develop) in training camp and the preseason.
Tampa Bay starts its preseason slate on September 23 against Nashville with a wide range of new faces and contracts. Here are the Lightning's five most important offseason moves from this offseason.
5. Re-Signing Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop went 37-14-7 last season with a 2.23 goals-against average en route to being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Bishop deserved a new contract and inked a two-year deal worth nearly three times his current contract. Starting in 2015-16, the goaltender will come with a $5.95 million salary-cap hit.
This was a big move for the Lightning for a variety of reasons. Bishop's importance to the team was well documented after his injury down the stretch. The Lightning were simply a different team with Bishop in net.
With the positive momentum gained from last season, it was important to lock up a key piece of the puzzle. By signing Bishop before the start of the upcoming season, the Lightning avoid having in-season contract talks and a potential distraction.
The downside to the new contract is that Bishop has just one season under his belt as a full-time NHL goaltender. If he can't produce near his numbers from last season, it could be a costly next couple years for the Lightning.
4. Ryan Malone's Buyout
One of the darker points in the Lightning's 2013-14 season came with the news of winger Ryan Malone's arrest right before the playoffs. For an organization that takes pride in the community and being philanthropic, this was an unfortunate event.
The arrest was probably the final push needed to justify parting ways with Malone's services. The underperforming forward never found much of a groove in Tampa Bay. While his size and toughness were nice additions, the Lightning have prospects waiting to make the jump.
The buyout took his $4.5 million cap hit off the books and will open up opportunities for players like Brett Connolly, Adam Erne, Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov to battle for a top-six forward spot.
This buyout, though it came under unfortunate in circumstances, is one of the better moves the Lightning have made this offseason.
3. June 29
June 29 was a crazy day for the Lightning. The Bolts completed three trades and didn't add a single player to the roster. Tampa Bay shipped B.J. Crombeen, Nate Thompson, Teddy Purcell and Sam Gagner to various teams in exchange for three draft picks in 2015.
According to ProSportsTransactions, the Lightning could have as many as 13 draft picks in next year's draft. The fact that the 2015 draft class is absolutely loaded with talent, both North American and European, makes these moves potential game-changers.
Depending on where they finish this upcoming season, the Bolts could use the surplus of picks to trade up and draft an immediate impact player. Or they can use the picks to acquire an additional piece near the deadline in preparation for a playoff run.
These moves didn't add anyone to the roster, but they were huge for the future of the franchise.
2. Jason Garrison Flies South
Jason Garrison's acquisition before the draft kicked off a busy time for the Lightning. Garrison, rights to forward Jeff Costello and a seventh-round pick in 2015 came to Tampa Bay in exchange for a second-round selection in the recently completed draft.
That's a pretty good return for just a second-round pick. Garrison is a player similar to Sami Salo, but the former is a bit of an upgraded version. The additional seventh-round pick can obviously be leveraged for a variety of options.
As a puck-moving defenseman, Garrison will be crucial in making smart decisions out of the defensive zone and possibly running the power play. He will get plenty of minutes as a top-four defenseman.
His veteran presence will be a great addition to the lineup and could provide the necessary boost for the Lightning heading into 2015.
1. Swede Reunion
Anton Stralman signed a five-year deal with the Lightning to join former New York Rangers teammates Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle. Stralman, a seven-year veteran, also joins fellow countryman Victor Hedman on the blue line.
Stralman is a steady defenseman who saw his overall game improve during the last three seasons in New York. He doesn't take many penalties and has constantly battled some of the league's best scorers during his NHL tenure.
He provides outstanding puck-possession skills and will (hopefully) keep the opposition from firing shots from high-percentage scoring areas. Stralman could end up becoming the Lightning's most important offseason move.