It's amazing how much can change in the span of a week. This was supposed to be simply a draft review follow up on my previous blog entry "Five Days Before Ottawa." But, as I mentioned in that article, with the new ownership shoes have been falling fast and furious in Tampa Bay. Since that time the Lightning not only conducted their first draft under the Oren Koules regime, but they also named Barry Melrose Head Coach, locked up Vaclav Prospal to a long term deal, and acquired the negotiating rights for Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts who are expected to ink deals tomorrow with the team. And there's still July 1st to look forward to on Tuesday.
How will these deals work out? Hard to say. Am I enthusiastic about having Vaclav Prospal signed to a contract that will end when he's 38 years old (and having to see his skating at that age)? Not really. Do I have any idea what Barry Melrose's system will look like after 13 years away from hockey? I'd be lying if I said I did (and I'd be lying if I said I was really enthusiastic about Assistant Coach Rick Tocchet's off-ice baggage coming with him). Does Gary Roberts still have any gas in the tank? If he does it'll probably be worth $5 a gallon by the end of this coming season. And, am I really stoked about potentially signing Ryan Malone to a 7 year contract worth nearly $4.5 million dollars a year after a 51 point season that was just 3 points better than Michel Ouellet's last campaign in a Pens uniform? The new ownership is definitely rolling the dice with all of these moves.
Now, that said, it's nice to be shopping for groceries at the Whole Foods rather than the Super Wal-Mart for a change. The thing about a guy like Malone is that he does have the potential to be a second liner, whereas bargain bin players like Jan Hlavac the Lightning signed in previous years due to PS&E's budget constraints had little chance of being legitimate NHL scoring line threats. And while I won't back off my statement that OK Hockey projects the image that the circus is coming to town, I would like to praise them on very professionally handling the draft. There's some temptation for new ownership groups to make gigantic splashes at the draft, and Koules certainly could've tried to climb the ladder to get another first round pick. That wouldn't have been wise for the Lightning given the assets they had on hand, however, so discretion was the better part of valor. Koules polished off his first draft by making a nice PR move selecting David Carle as well, which sends a nice message throughout the hockey community that this organization does have a pretty big heart. So, altogether, it was a pretty good weekend in Ottawa. I thought the Lightning's draft last year was deeper and more on point with what needs to be done to rebuild the forward depth in the organization with it's emphasis on smaller speed-oriented players, but the team did get a franchise player in Stamkos and some nice depth players at the goaltending and defenseman positions in this draft. No complaints there. Next year's draft, now that the Lightning will have a pair of second round picks, will be a bigger opportunity for the organization to replenish depth.
Anyway, on to the players: