Is a goalie worth one of the Big 3?
A very good question because it is becoming increasingly clear that Tampa Bay, beyond any other consideration, must get a No. 1 goaltender. Let's face it, the team cannot continue on its current path with a save percentage of .880, and as much as Karri Ramo may have skills that likely will develop, he has shown inconsistencies that, right now, indicate he is not ready to hold down a No. 1 spot. So it's not a stretch to think the team might look for a goalie over the summer in either trade or through free agency.
The question is, does the team have the payroll space to do it? That will depend on the budget set by either owner Palace Sports & entertainment or would-be owner Oren Koules.
Whatever the budget, the Lightning is going to have to clear some room, and that could start this month. As we read in this morning's paper, If the team is out of the playoff hunt by the Feb. 26 trade deadline, the team could start cutting payroll by trading potential unrestricted free agents. That includes players such as defenseman Dan Boyle, goaltender Johan Holmqvist and forwards Vinny Prospal, Jan Hlavac and Chris Gratton, among others.
But a front-line goaltender is an expensive proposition and it is conceivable more room will be needed. It definitely will be needed if the team makes the playoffs and doesn't do any housecleaning during the season. Again, it depends on the budget. But let's say whoever owns the team is not going to spend to the cap. Is it worth it at that point to trade one of the big-money guys?
It is a tough equation and perhaps one the team will have to grapple with this summer. Vinny Lecavalier is the face of the franchise and might be the game's best player. Brad Richards' $7.8-million salary and his no-trade clause make him difficult to move. And Marty St. Louis' age, 32, might make suitors wary.
Still, is a goalie (and I mean a top-line goalie) worth trading one of these guys? It's your call.
Also, Holmqvist in goal tonight. Right wing Michel Ouellet (separated shouler) also is back. He skated on Gratton's line this morning.