Paul Ranger will not be at Lightning camp and the GM says roster set (for now)
Not that this is a huge surprise, but Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said on Wednesday that defenseman Paul Ranger, who has been away from the team since October because of personal issues, will not be at training camp when it opens Sept. 17 at Brandon.
"I had a chance to talk with Paul and we're entering training camp under the assumption Paul won't be part of it," Yzerman said.
That is a bit of a blow to the team, which believed Ranger, who can move the puck, would be a good fit with coach Guy Boucher's puck-forward system. It also seems to have ended, for now, the organizational debate on whether to carry eight defensemen. Yzerman said he is "satisfied" with the seven blue-liners on one-way deals and is not looking to add another.
"Through our organization we'll look through training camp and see how the younger, how they play and decide if we want to add anyone in the future or are we comfortable with what we have," Yzerman said.
In fact, Yzerman said he likely is done tinkering with the roster for the time being and would like to fill any openings from within the organization.
"For the time being, I think we're set right now," Yzerman said. "There's spots on our roster open for competition, and from within the organization we want to give some of our younger players a chance to try to make this team. If through training camp and preseason we determine that some of our younger players aren't ready for that role, we'll look to add whether it's from the remaining free agents or potentially players waived before the start of the season."
Which brings us back to Ranger. Yzerman said he left the door open for the 25-year-old blue-liner, whose rights the Lightning retains but who must sign by Dec. 1 if he is to play this season.
"I've had some very good conversations with him," Yzerman said. "He's a really nice young man. I don't want to speak publicly on his behalf, but he's sorting out with what he wants to do with his hockey career and with his life. At this time he's not prepared to commit to coming back to the NHL, and I respect his position. I left it with him that the door is open if at some point he decides, 'I'm ready to play. I want to play for the Lightning,' let me know. And if you want to play but feel it's best that you need a fresh start, let me know as well. I want to work with him. ... We'll do what's right for Paul and we'll do what's right for the Lightning."
Ranger's agent, Joe Resnick, who declined to comment on his client's situation, said Yzerman has hit just the right tone.
"Steve Yzerman has been a gentleman throughout this process," Resnick said.
So, here is the roster as it shapes up right now:
Goalies -- Mike Smith, Dan Ellis. Defensemen -- Brett Clark, Victor Hedman, Randy Jones, Pavel Kubina, Mike Lundin, Mattias Ohlund, Matt Smaby. Left wings -- Simon Gagne, Ryan Malone, Sean Bergenheim, Johan Harju. Centers -- Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Dominic Moore, Nate Thompson. Right wings -- Marty St. Louis, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, Niklas Persson.
Harju and Persson are assumptions. Also assume the best competitions will be for the third- and fourth-line wings.