The NHL free agency period starts July 1 and while the Lightning were active in past years, the shallow pool of players available this year may mean they spend more time observing than participating.
Itâ€™s no secret the Lightning need a defenseman and Assistant General Manager Julien Brisebois recently told the Syracuse Post-Standard the team plans to add two blueliners before the fall. A look at the numbers says thatâ€™s true.
Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher frequently dresses seven defensemen and the team could easily carry eight on the roster throughout the year.
Expected to start the season on the Tampa Bay defense are Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Brian Lee, Brendan Mikkelson, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Keith Aulie. The first hole is in the top-4, where someone like free agent Ryan Suter of Nashville would fit perfectly. Of course, heâ€™d fit â€œperfectlyâ€ on to 29 other NHL rosters, too.
The Lightning were bombarded with injuries on the backline last year, led by veteran Mattias Ohlund missing the entire year with knee problems. While Ohlund is trying to make a comeback, that may not happen until next year â€“ if at all. The bottom line is Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman likely isnâ€™t counting on any contribution from the veteran Swede.
Speaking of Yzerman, he recently told the Tampa Bay Times that if he canâ€™t get defensive additions through free agency or trade, he could look to the AHL for help. The options there include frequent flier Evan Oberg, reigning AHL Defenseman of the Year Mark Barberio, or hard-hitting Radko Gudas, who was arguably Norfolkâ€™s best defenseman in their Calder Cup run last season. Gudas is also a right-handed shot, which is craved by Tampa Bay.