Cautious optimism about Lightning's future

The Lightning and general manager Steve Yzerman have started at least preliminary talks on a contract extension.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Lightning and general manager Steve Yzerman have started at least preliminary talks on a contract extension.

We already know the Lightning and general manager Steve Yzerman have started at least preliminary talks on a contract extension.

"It's not something we need to talk about right now," Yzerman said.

Said owner Jeff Vinik: "We'll get to that when the time is right."

The subject came up because Yzerman, after the Lightning last week secured its first playoff spot since 2011, said it will take another couple of seasons before we will start to know if the organization is on the road to becoming a perennial playoff contender in the mold of teams such as the Red Wings, Sharks and Bruins.

It was natural enough, then, to ask if Yzerman believes he will be around to make that assessment.

He chuckled.

"Hopefully we can keep making the playoffs," he said. "That's our goal."

It seems the foundation finally is in place.

Tampa Bay had seven rookies in the lineup that faced the Stars on Saturday, including two of the league's best in 20-goal scorers Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Captain Steven Stamkos, already a two-time 50-goal scorer, is just 24, and defenseman Victor Hedman, enjoying a breakout season, is 23. Goaltender Ben Bishop is just 27.

So far, Ryan Callahan, whom Tampa Bay hopes to keep from unrestricted free agency this summer, has made trading Marty St. Louis at least palatable. And forward Jonathan Drouin, last year's top draft pick, is at Halifax tearing up the junior Quebec league.

"Time will tell, but we think with the group and the nucleus that we have and the potential of players coming in over the next couple of years that we're headed in the right direction," Yzerman said. "We have to wait and see, and I don't want to look too far ahead, but we're pleased with the signs of progress."

"It's gratifying," Vinik said. "I've said it many times: Steve is doing a great job, and he's putting the players in place to hopefully sustain us for great success."

Of course, that also was the belief in 2011, when Tampa Bay reached the Eastern Conference final only to spend the next two seasons out of the playoffs.

That is why Yzerman, always the pragmatist, said of the team's future, "I'm cautious as well."

As for definitive word on his future, apparently we'll have to wait on that, too.

Cautious optimism about Lightning's future 04/05/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2014 9:06pm]

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