For Tampa Bay Lightning, what to do with nine defensemen?
Barring a trade, when the Tampa Bay Lightning laces them up for Saturday's season opener against the Thrashers in Atlanta, it will have nine defensemen on the roster, meaning three will be scratched. Even coach Rick Tocchet said it is not the ideal situation. But Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton said he is in no rush to thin the ranks because, if you recall last season when the blue line was dismantled by injuries, it's not a bad idea in the short term to have a few extra bodies around.
That said, had Lukas Krajicek been making less than $1.475 million, he might already have been dealt. It is believed the Lightning wouldn't ask for much in trade, and Lawton had said in the past he would not be opposed to keeping eight defensemen, which would allow for a 13th forward on a 23-player roster.
But, for now, the Lightning appears stuck with nine, with Krajicek, David Hale and Matt Smaby the extra three.
But here's the rub, Tocchet was pretty adamant the other day that while he likes the idea there will be competition for playing time (and it's not too terrible a situation for any starter to know there are others waiting to take his place), he is more inclined to favor continuity, that is playing six as a unit and letting that unit develop its own chemistry.
"I want to have six guys playing together," Tocchet said. "I don't want to get into situations, 'Let's play this guy against this team.' If you have six good D, they should play against Washington. They should play against New Jersey. They should play against anybody."
So, expect Tocchet to give the top six -- Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Paul Ranger, Matt Walker, Andrej Meszaros and Kurtis Foster -- a chance to play before he starts making changes if someone has a bad game or two. That's not to say Tocchet is going to be stubborn, but, for now, continuity is his mantra.
Lawton has said the ground work has been prepared for some deals. Let's see how long he waits to pull one off.