Vasilevskii deal gives Lightning plenty to consider
The signing of Andrei Vasilevskii to a three-year, entry-level deal was good news for the Lightning, which coveted its top goalie prospect since selecting him 19th overall in the 2012 draft.
Where will Vasilevskii play next season? The first thought would be AHL Syracuse. But general manager Steve Yzerman would not commit.
“I’ll kind of hold off predicting or thinking where he’s going to play or how much he’s going to play as of yet,” he said. “We’ve got to sort out our goaltending situation, make some decisions.”
So far, the only certainty is Ben Bishop will be the No. 1 going into camp; that is, assuming he is recovered from ligament surgery on his right wrist.
After that there is a mass of talent and uncertainty. Vasilevskii, 19, who was 14-8 with three shutouts last season in 28 games for Ufa of the KHL with a 2.21 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
Kristers Gudlevskis, 21, who showed so well this season in his brief NHL exposure. And what if University of Minnesota star Adam Wilcox decides to leave school and sign? And what is the Lightning going to do with Anders Lindback, who had a difficult season backing up Bishop and can be a restricted free agent?
“We’ve got to sort out our goaltending,” Yzerman said. “I’m not really sure right now. We have an idea of what we want to do, but I don’t want to say it publicly yet.”
The options are numerous.
Tampa Bay could sign Lindback as a backup and have Vasilevskii and Gudlevskis share duties at Syracuse which would give both valuable experience. The kids also would be in Syracuse if the team decides to go with a different veteran backup.
The Lightning could use either Vasilevskii or Gudlevskis as Bishop’s backup. Vasilevskii certainly has been impressive playing against men in the KHL, though giving him some time in the minors to get used to the North American game and rinks might not be a bad idea. And Yzerman said that despite the small sample size, Gudelveskis showed enough this season to at least get him into the conversation as a possible No. 2.
With all that going on, Wilcox, a rising junior, may very well say to himself, “Where am I going to play?” and just stay in school. Syracuse's Cedrick Desjardins, an unrestricted free agent, probably doesn't like the lay of the land right now, either.
And don’t discount the possibility of Yzerman using one of his goaltending chips in trade.
As far as where Vasilevskii lands and how things shake out, much likely will depend on training camp.
“One step at a time,” Yzerman said. “He excelled at the Russian junior level. He excelled at the international junior level, and he did very well in the KHL this year. So every year he’s gotten better.”
“Let’s be cautious and conservative,” Yzerman continued. “Let’s not over-hype anything. Let’s bring him over and see how he looks in camp and it’ll sort itself out.”