After busy day, owner predicts division title
The Lightning had a busy day Monday. According to owner Len Barrie, it agreed to terms with veteran forward Mark Recchi (one year, $1.25-million with incentives that could bump it up to $1.5-million) and defenseman Andrew Hutchinson (a two-year, one-way deal that indicates he will be a top-seven player). The team also heard that big Russian Evgeny Artyukhin signed a two-year, $1.9-million deal and has sent it to the Lightning to be finalized.
But most fun, I think, anyway, was Barrie, taking a moment to admire new ownership's handiwork in remaking the franchise.
"I'll predict right now, Tampa Bay will win the division," he said of the Southeast. "That's how much we like our team."
The team took another dramatic step Monday, especially with Recchi and Hutchinson. Not to discount Artyukhin, obviously, but we've known he is coming for a while. Recchi, 40, a 19-year veteran with 522 goals appears headed for the third line with center Jeff Halpern and left wing Gary Roberts, but as Barrie said, he can jump up and be a top-six player if needed. Recchi had 14 goals last season split between the Penguins and Thrashers.
Hutchinson, 28, won a Stanley Cup in 2005-06 with the Hurricanes. Last season the 6-foot-2, 206-pounder had 18 goals, 64 points and 66 penalty minutes in 67 games for AHL Hartford. Considering the contract, it appears Tampa Bay is confident he will fill out the blue line that right now appears to also include Matt Carle, Filip Kuba, Mike Lundin, Paul Ranger, Shane O'Brien and Alex Picard, with Janne Niskala hanging around.
Consider this, though. One of the perks of finishing last is you get first crack at players put on waivers (or more likely recall waivers). And there is plenty of scuttlebutt the Lightning is going to be scouring the waiver wire as defensemen become roster casualties. Two names being whispered: Darryl Sydor and Bryan McCabe. Not that it will happen, and Sydor would be more likely than McCabe because of his contract. But it's something to think about, and as we have seen with this new ownership group, anything can happen.
"Every player I've talked to can't wait for training camp to get started," Barrie said.
One other note: long-time head scout Jake Goertzen said he was fired Monday after 17 years with the team. An original member of the organization (he began scouting in 1991, a year before the team played its first game), Goertzen said it will take a couple of days to sink in.
"I'll take a couple of days to reflect a little bit," he said. "I haven't spoken to anybody. I'd like to keep working, for sure."
Goertzen was up front that the team has not drafted well since it picked Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards in 1998, and didn't back away from blame the past several years in several stories in the Times.