Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning defense needs major upgrade

If ever there was an example of the Lightning's biggest need, it occurred during Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Jets.

There were times Tampa Bay could not even gain control of the puck in the defensive zone, producing long stretches in which Winnipeg peppered the net.

There were times Tampa Bay had the puck that just making an accurate pass out of the defensive zone was an adventure.

And there were plenty of times the Lightning simply had to chip the puck out of the defensive zone to regroup before having to defend again, a process that creates momentum for the team with the puck and tires the team on its heels.

In other words, the Lightning needs, again, an upgrade on defense. It needs someone a little faster. It needs someone confident with the puck, who can make a play under pressure rather than bail.

Tampa Bay hasn't had that since Dan Boyle was traded in the summer of 2008. It is a tough commodity to find. But if Tampa Bay is to become a legitimate playoff threat, it must find that spark plug.

It doesn't appear magic bullets are to be had via free agency, and Mark Barberio at AHL Syracuse, whom some believe might one day fill that role, does not seem ready.

That leaves the trade route, and that is where Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman can deal from strength. He said as much after he sent rookie Cory Conacher to the Senators for goaltender Ben Bishop at the trade deadline and indicated there is enough organizational depth at forward to use as bait in additional deals.

Prominent in trade speculation at the deadline was Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle, who had 22 goals, 102 points the previous two seasons and entering Saturday had nine goals, 24 points in 43 games.

He is expensive, with $16.5 million owed the next three seasons, and with Tampa Bay only $2.6 million under next season's $64.3 million salary cap, this probably is more a mental exercise than anything. But the Coyotes, given their financial situation, might be motivated sellers and willing to take some salary back, and the Lightning can create cap room with perhaps a contract buyout and the expected shedding, in some fashion, of the contract of injured defenseman Mattias Ohlund.

And with organizational depth at forward that includes Brett Connolly, J.T. Brown, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik and Tanner Richard — not to mention substantial depth at goaltender — Tampa Bay has attractive assets to deal.

So, it can do something. Actually, it must.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

Lightning defense needs major upgrade 04/20/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 20, 2013 11:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Four key games that could decide Bucs' success in 2017

    Blogs

    The Bucs finished so close to making the playoffs in 2016 -- literally flip-flop the last two results and have them beat the Saints and lose to the Panthers and they're in as a wild card with the same 9-7 record -- that it's difficult to say with any certainty what will happen in the 2017 season.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, shown celebrating a touchdown against the Giants in 2015, will face New York again this fall in Week 4 in Tampa.
  2. Frank Deford wrote with sincerity, giving depth to complicated sports figures

    Human Interest

    Frank Deford practically invented the notion of multimedia: He exported his voice to radio, TV and film, and if you didn't know him you might have thought he was an actor, because he wore purple suits and looked like Clark Gable. But Frank, who died Sunday at age 78, was a writer above all things, and an important …

    In a 1991 photo, Frank Deford holds a proof of The National Sports Daily, of which he was editor and publisher [Associated Press]
  3. Clarity coming this week on Florida Gators, Malik Zaire

    Blogs

    After months of speculation, we could finally get some clarity this week on the Florida Gators and graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire.

    SEC flags outside the hotel of last year's spring meetings in Destin. This year's meetings could have a huge impact on the Florida Gators' season.
  4. Jose De Leon sent back to minors after helping Rays win

    Blogs

    RHP Jose De Leon worked 2 2/3 innings to get the win in his Rays debut Monday and then was optioned back to Triple-A Durham.

    De Leon was brought up to provide length and depth in the bullpen after the Rays played 15 innings on Sunday, and he did that, allowing three runs on four hits while throwing 69 …

  5. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.