Lightning Roster Speculation & Farm Needs
With the draft around the corner and the most significant free agent signing in the books, it’s time to take note of what Steve Yzerman and the Lightning have to work with at all levels.
The caveat here is that spots are earned in workouts and camp and not on computer screens, so this is just fun speculation and subject to change.
Here’s a look at what the Lightning would probably need to look like if they are to become a conference contender:
Killorn – Stamkos – Drouin
Palat – Filppula – Callahan
Kucherov - Johnson - Brown
Thompson – Paquette
Extra: Panik, Crombeen
Hedman – Gudas
Carle - ACQUISITION
Brewer – ACQUISITION/Sustr
Out: Purcell, Aulie (RFA), Salo (UFA), Lindback (RFA/UFA), Malone (UFA), Pyatt (UFA), Kostka (UFA), Lee (RFA/UFA), Desjardins (UFA), Landry (RFA/UFA), Walker (RFA/UFA)
In: 2-3 defensemen, Drouin, backup goalie
Down: Sustr, Kunyk, Gudlevskis
Commentary: I have Teddy Purcell leaving via trade for a defenseman or picks and cap space. He’s the only forward with value deemed expendable due to player type (perimeter possession/playmaker surpassed by Drouin, Kucherov), and he is not protected by a no-movement clause. Just missing spots are Adam Erne (back to Juniors for quality playing time, and Brett Connolly [could be traded]). Vlad Namestnikov is knocking hard on the NHL door, but there’s just not room yet, even if Cooper moves Johnson or Stamkos to wing. Give him a couple more months in the AHL. I debated keeping Sustr in Tampa. Collegians don’t play as many games as junior players and he missed the last 1/3 of last season in Syracuse when he was supposed to be getting big minutes. He may be too good to keep off the NHL roster, though. That’s too close to call right now. I’d rather further depth be established and another defenseman brought in to push Sustr down. After Barberio there’s a big drop in experience and Yzerman is two years removed from uninstalling the defenseman-heavy revolving door caused by injuries. Mike Kostka, a cheap, known commodity, could be brought back on a 2-way deal and be the No. 8 defenseman at a low cost. It's important to remember that Yzerman likes to overstock with qualified personnel in case of injuries or randomly demanding a trade to New York. There are going to be deserving players playing in the AHL.
Marchessault - Namestnikov - Connolly
Gourde - Kunyk - Ikonen
Rankin (AHL contract) - Richard - Vermin
Paradis - Angelidis - Smith
Extra: Gauthier, Neilsen
Possible extra: PC Labrie on AHL contract, 1-2 acquisitions (likely on AHL deals)
Koekkoek - Cote
Korobov - Sustr
Mormina (AHL) - Witkowski
Extra: Nesterov, Sergeev, Blujus, Dotchin, or Milan
Commentary: I think a vet D could be added, especially if Korobov is qualified then returns to the KHL (pure speculation). Maybe another forward is added, probably on an AHL contract.
Three of Nesterov, Sergeev, Blujus, Dotchin, Milan
Clay Witt on AHL contract
Farm Overview: Looking at the farm and the upcoming draft, the Lightning organizational roster lacks grit and size up front, as well as high-end defensive prospects beyond two existing players. Jon Cooper said he wants the Lightning to get bigger and harder to play against up front and the Callahan contract certainly reflects the latter. The farm also lacks a right-handed puck-moving defenseman who projects as a top-3, and though Koekkoek is a wonderful prospect, his injury woes require insurance. Only Koekkoek (top-2) and maybe Sustr project as top-4 defensemen. While Adam Erne addresses size and grit, expect at least one pick this weekend to be a Callahan type -- someone who leads by example while contributing on the scoresheet. Lightning Head Scout Al Murray said this is a good draft for complementary players like this. The farm is also devoid of playmaking centers, with only Tanner Richard fulfilling that player type. Vladdy and Kunyk are more all-around centers not noted primarily for their passing ability. Yzerman/BriseBois has addressed playmaking, however, but off the wing with Gourde and Marchessault. Both should be among Syracuse's scoring leaders this year.
Draft size/grit options: Alex Tuch, Ryan MacInnis, Brendan Lemieux, Dylan Larkin, Connor Bleakley, Hunter Smith, Justin Kirkland
RH puckmovers: Julius Honka, Anthony DeAngelo, Roland McKeown, Jake Walman, Dysin Mayo
Playmaking centers: Robert Fabbri, Josh Ho-Sang, Brayden Point, Fabio Hogger (okay, I just liked the name)