Espo says Meszaros will be an elite defenseman
Perhaps not right away, but Lightning founder Phil Esposito had nothing bad to say about Tampa Bay's acquisition of defenseman Andres Meszaros.
"I think this kid has the potential to develop into playing 28, 30 minutes. I think Meszaros has that," Esposito said.
We speak to Esposito again because just several weeks ago he said he believed the Lightning's defense, as it was previously constructed, had the stuff to be okay. He even expressed how much he liked the potential of 23-year-old Alex Picard, who, along with Filip Kuba and a first-round draft picks, was dealt to the Senators Friday night for Meszaros.
Meszaros, of course, signed a six-year, $24-million contract on Saturday.
"The guy blocks shots, which the Lightning, I don't think I've ever seen guys do that except (Brad) Lukowich, who used to get in the way," Esposito said. "(Meszaros) plays games. He doesn't get hurt very often. I think he's a terrific guy. ... I liked Picard a lot, but to get something you have to give something, and Meszaros is better than Picard, and they're the same age."
Asked about the criticism Meszaros endured in Ottawa last season, not the least of which was he did not display a good two-way game. Esposito laughed.
"He's 22 years old," he said. "You've got to remember that."
You also have to remember some extenuating circumstances, including fellow Senators defenseman Wade Redden having a bad year, meaning more pressure fell to Meszaros to perform. And Ottawa's goaltending was awful last season, and that makes everyone look bad.
Esposito still thinks things could be rough for the Lightning early in the season "because they're not going to be really a team yet, because they've got all these new guys. But, boy oh boy, you watch, as the season goes, the better it's going to get, without a doubt."