GM Steve Yzerman says Tampa Bay Lightning likely to carry eight defensemen
With the signing of Mike Lundin on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning has eight defensemen with one-way contracts for next season. It might seem a bit much. Most teams generally suit up six blue-liners per game. But general manager Steve Yzerman said there is a good chance Tampa Bay will carry eight defensemen on the NHL roster.
Two main reasons, Yzerman said. First, new coach Guy Boucher likes the flexibility of a game-day lineup that includes seven defensemen. Second, Yzerman has some decisions to make on defense going forward. For example, does he want to keep players like Mike Lundin, Matt Lashoff and Matt Smaby. All three have one year left on their deals and Yzerman is the first to tell you he hasn't seen enough of Tampa Bay's players to make long-term evaluations. There also is the usual concerns about injuries. Having bodies around means less disruption to AHL Norfolk.
"It doesn't mean we will and I'm not saying for certain, but for the time being having eight defensemen isn't too many," Yzerman said. " It's better if we had the flexibility of one or two on two-way (contracts), but this give me a chance to assess and see where they are."
As for defenseman Paul Ranger, who missed almost all of last season because of a personal issue, the GM has said he wants him in the lineup. While Yzerman said he has had contact with Ranger's agent, the player's future has not been nailed down. Meanwhile, Yzerman must proceed as if Ranger will not return.
So, as it stands now, here is the Lightning's defense: Lundin, Smaby, Lashoff, Brett Clark, Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina, Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker.
Yzerman also said it is time he turned his attention to filling in the roster at forward, where (assuming eight defensemen) up to 13 spots are available. Tampa Bay is a little thin there with the only sure things (barring trades) being centers Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Nate Thompson, left wing Ryan Malone and right wings Marty St. Louis, Steve Downie and Teddy Purcell.
Right wing Adam Hall, who spent almost all last season with Norfolk, also has a one-way contract. And the usual suspects -- Paul Szczechura, James Wright, Blair Jones -- will get long looks as will right wings Carter Ashton and Niklas Persson and left wing Johan Harju, among others.
But Yzerman said he will be looking at free agents, but did not sound as if he will be rushed.
"I want to add to the roster over the remainder of the summer," Yzerman said, "but I'll do it carefully."