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Lots of defensemen for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but, perhaps, not many decisions



At a quick glance, it appears the Tampa Bay Lightning will have lots of decisions to make on the blue line. Heck, with nine defensemen on one-waycontracts -- Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker, Kurtis Foster, Paul Ranger, Andrej Meszaros, Lukas Krajicek, Victor Hedman, Matt Smaby and David Hale -- and Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin still unsigned, it looks like a real glut back there.

But maybe not.

GM Brian Lawton has indicated several times he is not opposed to carrying eight defensemen. That may sound like a lot because in the past, especially during John Tortorella's time as coach, Tampa Bay, at times, carried only six defensemen. But consider that eight still leaves room for 13 forwards (including one scratch) and two goaltenders. And after the injury-crazed 2008-09 season, having a few spare bodies around might not be such a bad idea. 

The other thing to remeber is it is not even August, so there is plenty of time for things to shake out, and there are a myriad of scenarios, so here's a couple to think about.

Let's say Tampa Bay decides to keep eight defensemen. Seems with a $1.5 million contract and because he doesn't play with the physicality coach Rick Tocchet likes, Krajicek could be a candidate to be moved. Hale, too, or perhaps he could be sent down to AHL Norfolk. The Lightning did well to get Todd Fedoruk out of the Coyotes in the deal for Radim Vrbata. He's a capable third- and fourth-line player. But Hale seemed like a throw-in. He's a big strong guy, but there is nothing in his stat line that makes you believe he is any better than Smaby, especially after what Smaby did last season. And Smaby is cheaper by more than $200,000.

As for Lashoff and Lundin, surely the Lightning wants to sign them to two-way deals. Since both are restricted free agents and have received qualifying offers, if their rights stay with Tampa Bay (meaning if they are not traded or an offer sheet doesn't come along), they will sign or sit out. The two-way deals pay much less if the player is in the minors. Both, though, would have to clear waivers to get there as would Hale.

The bottom line: while having nine defensemen on one-way contracts seems daunting, if the team carries eight, a few decisions have to be made but the dynamic isn't quite as intense. Any of that make sense? 

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:39pm]


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