What a difference a few months make. This time last year, we were wondering whether Vincent Lecavalier would be traded, who was actually running the organization, and whether the Tampa Bay Lightning would follow the Phoenix Coyotes into bankruptcy.
This year, owner Jeffrey Vinik has given the franchise the financial stability it has lacked it's entire existence and Steve Yzerman is the unquestioned leader of the organization.
Gone is perhaps the worst GM in the NHL, Brian Lawton. Gritty Head Coach Rick Tocchet was swept aside as well and Yzerman hired one of the hottest coaching prospects in Guy Boucher.
With the front office settled, Yzerman went to work at remaking the roster.
He began by re-signing the ultimate Bolt, Martin St. Louis, to a 4 year contract extension. Hopefully he or Boucher will give him the "C" he's deserved for the last four years.
He got out of some of Lawton's horrid deals, trading away Andrej Meszaros, Matt Walker, and Matt Lashoff. He bought out the contract of Todd Fedoruk and allowed Ryan Craig, Kurtis Foster, David Hale, Antero Niittymaki and the wonder that is Alex Tanguay to sign elsewhere.
Yzerman added depth to the Tampa Bay goal with the signing of Dan Ellis. He provided a talent infusion on the Lightning's blue line by adding defensemen Pavel Kubina (yes, the same Kubina who patrolled the blue line during the Lightning's Cup run), Brett Clark, Matheiu Roy, Mike Vernace and Randy Jones while re-signing Mike Lundin.
The acquisition of former Flyer All-Star Simon Gagne finally gave Vincent Lecavalier a quality winger to play with. Yzerman was also able to retain Steve Downie.
He added some forward depth with the signing of Niklas Persson, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Chris Durno, Dominic Moore, and Sean Bergenheim.
Yzerman also attempted to beef up the Lightning's farm system - which previously has been ranked in the lower half of the NHL - by acquiring goalie Cedrick Desjardins and forwards Stefano Giliati, Alex Berry and Mike Angelidis.
Yzerman also took a chance in the NHL draft on ultra-talented but injury risk Brett Connolly.
Needless to say - with the Tampa Bay Lightning take the ice next month for Training Camp, from top to bottom this is a vastly different organization than the one that has missed the post-season the past three years.