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When it comes to goalie search, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he first will try the trade route

The Lightning, leading up to free agency, will look to trade for a No. 1 goaltender, general manager Steve Yzerman said.

“My preference,” Yzerman said Thursday night, "is to go with a little bit younger guy that maybe has a little less experience that can step up and play well for us now.”

As an example he mentioned Semyon Varlamov, 24, whom the Avalanche acquired last summer from the Capitals for a first- and second-round draft pick and who had a respectable 2.59 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 53 games.

“And if we can’t do anything in that way, we look forward to July 1,” Yzerman said of the start of unrestricted free agency.

That equation is significant because it seems to exclude Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.

There has been much speculation Tampa Bay is the natural landing spot for Luongo, who during the playoffs lost his starting job to Cory Schneider and then indicated he would be open to a trade. As detailed here several times, the problem with Luongo, as far as the Lightning is concerned, is his contract. The 33-year-old goalie has 10 years left on a deal that pays $6.714 million for the next six years, or until Luongo is 39.

Owner Jeff Vinik has deep pockets, but even that seems too much to risk on an aging player.

The subject got a fresh airing Thursday after Yzerman, on a Tampa radio show hosted by Tampa Bay Times reporters Tom Jones and Rick Stroud, said, “We’ll find that guy through the draft or unrestricted free agency – that guy isn’t there at this time.”

Yzerman said he believed he said “if” that guy isn’t there at this time. He did not but was clear in a later interview that is what he meant.

“We’re trying to identify a guy who we think may be ready to be a starter as oppose to one of the veterans and waiting until July 1,” he said.

Tampa Bay, with two first-round picks (Nos. 10 and 19) and four in the second, has plenty with which to barter. Two young goalies with plenty of upside who might be available in trade include Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bernier and Nashville’s Anders Lindback. As for unrestricted free agents, the most intriguing in a weak group is Minnesota’s Josh Harding.

That said, “I’m not going to do a long-term deal with someone I’m not comfortable with,” Yzerman said.

In other words, the GM is willing to go with a stop-gap goalie next season to be paired with returning Mathieu Garon with the hope of acquiring a long-term solution thereafter.

That would mean next year we get to go on goalie watch yet again.

[Last modified: Friday, May 25, 2012 12:04am]

    

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