Erlendsson Shows Love
Erik Erlendsson of the Trib blogs some kudos to Bolt Prospects in his Tuesday entry on the Lightning's offseason and the possibility of re-signing prospect defenseman Andreas Holmqvist. We blog kudos back to his blog, which has come along nicely over the past year.
Specifically regarding Holmqvist: suffice it to say he has some significant support behind him in the organization. And, considering the scouts who followed the Swedish league and Swedish World Championships team last season did deliver Johan Holmqvist and Andreas Karlsson to the team last season, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see an Andreas Holmqvist comeback on the horizon. I think the only thing that is precluding it might be a sense in the front office that they've already been fooled once by Andreas before. The former 2001 2nd round draft pick got a very lucrative one-way deal to come to North America the year before the lockout and was utterly putrid. The scouting report from that juncture of his career was not exactly glowing. His ability to play in his own third of the ice often took on the appearance of a deer trapped in headlights. Few who were there will forget his rookie training camp pairing with Mike Egener and how the two youngsters were abused shift after shift by the likes of Dimitry Afanasenkov (they made Affy look like Pavel Bure) in preseason scrimmages. Andreas also lacked anything resembling upper body strength. It's not that he didn't try to use his frame to body up people. He would lean on opponents and try to work along the wall. But the average ten year old could probably bench more than Holmqvist when he came across the Atlantic. Andreas also needed to work on his first step acceleration, but that was a minor point in comparison to the previous two strikes. The Lightning scouts around that time truly believed at the time Andreas' offensive skill set was NHL caliber. The young man is an incredible sight to behold when he runs a power play. Crisp skater. Sharp passer. Thunderously heavy shot. So Jay Feaster gave him the money, and probably felt luck a sucker every day for the next two years straight until Andreas went back to Sweden to play for Linkopings in the Elitserien. I don't blame him for being hesitant.
But, since going back to Sweden, Holmqvist has done just about everything you could ask of a young player to burnish his credentials for a comeback. He's had two solid offensive seasons and has been a semi-regular fixture on Sweden's Euro Tour teams. He even got a medal playing on the bottom pair for Sweden at last year's World Championships. This season he was mercilessly consistent the second half of the Elitserien season and had a strong playoffs helping Linkopings advance to the league finals before being knocked off by MODO for the championship.
To me, there's not a lot of risk in re-signing Holmqvist and it's a little bit of a no-brainer. I presume he can't command much more than a one-year, two-way, league minimum contract. If his agent can get anything more than that, well, then I want his agent to be my agent too. So if it's not a money issue then it comes down to organizational needs and the 50-man roster. From an organizational standpoint, in case anyone hasn't noticed, there's not a lot offensive defenseman prospects in this organization right now. There are even less right handed point shots. God forbid if Dan Boyle should ever get hurt. Holmqvist potentially kills those two birds and another: since Andy Delmore was traded to the Thrashers the Lightning have been lacking someone to run their power play at the AHL level. Holmqvist would probably spend at least the first half of the season in Norfolk and could handle the role. He was ruthlessly efficient on the power play during Linkopings' playoff run.
The 50-man roster might be the hurdle. The Lightning have a potentially large class of incoming prospects: as many as ten by my count if they can find a way to wrangle Vasily Koshechkin out of the last year of his rumored deal with Togliatti. Between players moving up to Tampa and prospects who probably won't be asked back I only see six or seven spots as definitely opening up. Whether or not the other three the Lightning would need to clear can become available might ultimately make the decision on a Holmqvist comeback.