Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman prefers to get young, quality goalie in a trade

After much speculation about what Steve Yzerman is looking for in a No. 1 goaltender, the Lightning general manager defined his terms.

"My preference," he said, "is to go with a little bit of a younger guy that maybe has a little less experience and can step up and play well for us now."

To illustrate, Yzerman mentioned Semyon Varlamov, 24, whom the Avalanche got last summer from the Capitals for first- and second-round draft picks, and who in 53 games this season had a fine 2.59 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.

Yzerman said he will try through June to trade for his own upside-heavy asset.

"And if we can't do anything in that way, we look forward to July 1," he said of the start of unrestricted free agency.

It is as detailed as Yzerman has been about his plans and as notable for whom they seem to exclude: Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.

There is the thought Tampa Bay is the natural landing spot for Luongo, 33, who during the playoffs lost his starting job to Cory Schneider and has indicated he will accept a trade.

That Yzerman was executive director and Luongo was in net when Canada won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics has helped fuel the conjecture.

Would Yzerman like to have Luongo? Sure. And a cynic would say the GM's openness about his ideal goalie is merely a smokescreen for his competitors.

But that overlooks Luongo's problematic contract, which has 10 years left and pays $6.714 million until Luongo is 39. Given the Lightning's experience this season with Dwayne Roloson, 42, it does not seem an investment the team would make.

It is believed Yzerman actually covets Schneider, 26, who this season had a 1.96 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 33 games. Assuming Schneider is not available, other goalies who seem to fit Yzerman's parameters and might be available in trade include Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier, 23, and Nashville's Anders Lindback, 24, both backups.

As for unrestricted free agents, the most intriguing in a mediocre group is Minnesota's Josh Harding, which brings up an interesting scenario.

"We want to be a competitive team next year. We want to find the best goaltender we can," Yzerman said. "But I'm not going to do a long-term deal with someone I'm not comfortable with."

In other words, Yzerman sounds willing for next season to stitch together a tandem with Mathieu Garon and find a long-term solution there­after.

It's better, though, to get it done now with a trade, said Yzerman, who has two first-round picks (Nos. 10 and 19) in next month's draft and four in the second with which to barter.

"We're trying to identify a guy who we think may be ready to be a starter as opposed to one of the veterans and waiting until July 1," he said.

STAR SEARCH: How much does Yzerman like Swiss star Damien Brunner? "He's an exciting player," Yzerman said of the right wing. "He can really skate. He's really skilled. I'd like to sign him."

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