Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

AHL goalie Dustin Tokarski intriguing option for Tampa Bay Lightning

The most intriguing player in the Lightning organization might be minor-leaguer Dustin Tokarski.

Even from AHL Norfolk, his presence is felt in Tampa, where the Lightning is going through yet another season of goaltending angst and Tokarski has gotten stronger as the season has progressed.

So why hasn't Tampa Bay called up Tokarski for even a quick look to gauge his development?

General manager Steve Yzerman considered it about a month ago, but coach Guy Boucher wanted to give struggling No. 1 Dwayne Roloson more time to find his game.

"I always want to believe in our players," Boucher said. "Any player at any moment of the year can turn things around; you never know when, especially with a guy who's done it before who's got experience. … I believe (Roloson) can still do well."

But Roloson's 3.68 goals-against average and .880 save percentage have not improved, and he allowed a couple of questionable goals in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Capitals.

The Lightning also has fallen to last in the Eastern Conference and is a gaping 10 points out of the final playoff spot. That means the time likely is at hand for Yzerman to shift focus to plan for next season rather than a playoff run the team gives little indication it can mount.

In that context, why not call up Tokarski, 22, even for a quick look? At the least it would give Tampa Bay a chance to evaluate him in a big-league atmosphere.

It would be important information for a team needing a long-term goalie solution and facing a short-term decision on whether to re-sign Tokarski, a pending restricted free agent who entered Saturday 15-9-0 with a 2.41 goals-against average, .903 save percentage and two shutouts.

For what it's worth, Boucher last week did not publicly raise any objections: "The reality is we have a guy in the minors whose contract is up, and he's been doing real well in the minors. And we have a general manager who wants to know what he's got. That's normal."

And intriguing.

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