TAMPA — Lightning coach John Tortorella on Saturday urged the organization to get into the summer's free-agent market as a way to close the team's most glaring holes.
He also said that despite consistent contributions from players such as Michel Ouellet and Jeff Halpern and unexpected ones from Mathieu Darche and Craig MacDonald, the roster must remain a work in progress.
"You can have a warm-and-fuzzy about Darche and Mac, but you always have to try to better your team," Tortorella said.
"I just don't want us clouded in saying, 'Maybe the way he played at the end.' You still have to have the focus of trying to be better as a hockey club when you talk about your personnel."
Tampa Bay needs two top-six forwards and a steady, veteran defenseman. The draft will begin addressing needs long term. But with little push coming immediately from the minors and little depth with which to trade, Tortorella said the best route, short term, is the checkbook.
It is difficult to know what direction the Lightning will take. The brass likely won't finalize a plan before the draft lottery, perhaps the second week of April. And there is the pending sale.
None of that changes the big picture, Tortorella said: "We have holes, and we have to get into the free-agent market because we have nothing down in the minors."
SMITH better: Goalie Mike Smith (strained left knee) was Karri Ramo's backup and will start Monday's home finale.
O'BRIEN SITS: Defenseman Shane O'Brien was scratched for the first time this season after being kept off the ice Friday to have what Tortorella called "his own workout."
Tortorella has declined to elaborate, and O'Brien politely declined to talk about it. Defenseman Brad Lukowich got the call after missing 21 games with a hernia.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY: Center Vinny Lecavalier is the Lightning's nominee for the King Clancy Award, given for community service.
"You're definitely happy if they pick you," he said. "It's great, but you do it for the community and the kids."
ODDS AND ENDS: Lecavalier and right wing Marty St. Louis had three shots but none after the first. … St. Louis said he is undecided about playing for Canada in the world championships if asked. … Forwards Andre Roy and Karl Stewart were scratched.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]