When Nate Thompson became the third Lightning forward to get traded Sunday night to free up salary cap space, it piqued even his curiosity of the team's grand plan.
"They're obviously trying to go for something," he said.
The Lightning is expected to be one of the more fascinating teams in free agency, which begins at 11 a.m. today thanks to a flurry of Sunday deals that give it around $13 million in cap space.
The Lightning is looking at the market for defensemen, with the Penguins' Matt Niskanen, Rangers' Anton Stralman, Sabres buyout Christian Ehrhoff and former Tampa Bay star Dan Boyle, who played last season with the Sharks, the biggest names. Niskanen was planning to narrow his finalists Monday night from a field of 10-plus teams, though he could be expensive. Tampa Bay is in the running for Boyle, who will likely draw multiple two-year offers from contending teams.
Ehrhoff, 31, was bought out by the Sabres on Sunday. Coincidentally or not, it was the same day Tampa Bay made three deals to move salaries, sending Teddy Purcell to the Oilers for Sam Gagner, who was shipped with B.J. Crombeen to the Coyotes and Thompson to the Ducks (for a fourth- and seventh-round pick).
Tampa Bay's other need is backup goalie. It is still considering bringing back Anders Lindback, who was not given a qualifying offer; Lindback's agent, Michael Deutsch, said he'd be interested in returning but has also contacted other teams and could sign somewhere as early as today. "Hard to say what is going to happen," Deutsch said.
Tampa Bay has been one of 10 teams to check in on Bruins goalie Chad Johnson, who went 17-4 with a 2.10 goals against average. Other options are Martin Brodeur, Tomas Vokoun, Justin Peters or Al Montoya. The Lightning could look at forwards, and after having dealt grinders Thompson and Crombeen, it might look at former Lightning center Dominic Moore.
"I got the call and I was in a little bit of shock for a little bit," said Thompson, who spent five seasons with Tampa Bay. "Whenever you find out you're traded it's always been a whirlwind and overwhelming. … It's definitely bittersweet to leave a place like Tampa, because I consider it home and a place where I kind of established myself as a solid NHL player. And that's definitely the sad part of it."
In other news, the team made qualifying offers to defensemen Andrej Sustr and Dmitry Korobov, along with forwards Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, Cody Kunyk and Philippe Paradis. Defenseman Keith Aulie, Charles Landry, Geoff Walker and Lindback were not given offers, and will be unrestricted free agents today.
DATE SWITCHED: Tampa Bay's home game against Montreal, initially slated for April 7, has been re-scheduled for Oct. 13.
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]pabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.