Some names to watch as free agency opens
No, big long analysis here, since we have a story in tomorrow's paper that will also appear on the web site, but wanted to give a heads up, and perhaps prompt some discussion, about what players the Lightning could be looking at in free agency, which opens at noon on Wednesday.
"We're not looking to make any big splashes," GM Brian Lawton said. "Slow and steady."
Defense: Clearly the position that must be upgraded the most. I'll start with what might seem like a long shot and perhaps it is, but on one level it makes sense. Mattias Ohlund (Canucks). He plays a good two-way game and plays the rugged game the Lightning sorely lacks. He also is Swedish and could be the mentor needed for Swedish draft choice Victor Hedman. He is expensive, though. ... Keep an eye on Matt Walker (Blackhawks) as well. Not big offensively, but another gritty player who is versatile and can kill penalties. ... Lawton predicted Steve Eminger likely would become available after he traded him to the Panthers. Lawton was right as Eminger was not qualified and is unrestricted. ... Cory Murphy, a valuable part of the power play last season, doesn't seem to be in Tampa Bay's plans.
Forwards: I'll tell you who I like and in whom the Lightning may have interest: Chad LaRose (Hurricanes). He had 19 goals last season, will be relatively cheap, and he was a thorn in the Lightning's side all season.
Goalie: Thought Robert Esche was going to be in the mix, but there is talk that has changed, though can't figure out exactly why. So, how does Ty Conklin sound as Mike Smith's backup? Did a great job with the Red Wings last season and with a reasonable salary. ... Oh, and there certainly are the usual rumors that Tampa Bay wants Nikolai Khabibulin back. Seems to come up every season.
Just guesses, though some based on conversations with people around the league. We'll see how it shakes out on Wednesday.