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Would Cullimore fit?



If you've been following along, you read in Sunday's paper the Lightning inquired about free agent defenseman Jassen Cullimore. It was an inquiry only but it was intriguing given Cullimore was one of the key players in Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup victory.

There are many hurdles to a Cullimore return. His time with the Blackhawks, with whom he signed after the Cup victory, was inconsistent, he had a few injury problems he said have been cleared up and he probably is looking for more money than the Lightning is willing to pay. But he knows Tampa Bay's system and at 6 feet 5, 250 pounds, can be physical.

The Lightning likely would not want Cullimore in a top-four position making his likely salary request of $650,000 to $700,000 a bit problematic. But as far as a fifth or sixth guy who can hold the fort and be a force in front of the net, he may not look so bad.

It is an interesting question and one prompted by what GM Jay Feaster said is an on going internal debate about how to fill out the team's blue line. Should the team go with what it's got -- a top five of Dan Boyle, Paul Ranger, Shane O'Brien, Filip Kuba and Brad Lukowich and a stable of hopefuls that includes Dan Jancevski, Jay Leach, Matt Smaby, Bryce Lampman and Vladmir Mihalik -- or sign another veteran free agent?

The defense is the last part of the roster that needs finalizing. Barring trades, the forwards and goaltenders are set coming into camp.

Money is the other question. Tampa Bay has committed $42.34-million of its available $44-million payroll, and forward Ryan Craig is still unsigned. No matter how you slice it, that is tight. As Cullimore's agent Roland Thompson said of Feaster, "It's a tough puzzle for him to piece together.''

So here are the Lightning's choices: sign someone now (remember, Nolan Pratt is still out there) or go into camp with what it has and see how that shakes out. If the team decides none of its hopefuls can fill the sixth spot, it can look to waivers or remaining free agents to fill the gap.


[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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