Tampa Bay Lightning, rest of NHL start shopping today

Does the Lightning spend money or pull back? Does the ownership squabble between Oren Koules and Len Barrie paralyze, or are egos put aside for the good of the team? We'll find out today as free agency begins at noon.

"I feel great about it," general manager Brian Lawton said. "We have a crystal clear direction. We've got a firm plan we think addresses our needs and will move the team forward."

The Lightning has clear needs: one, or perhaps two, defensemen, a backup goalie and maybe even a scoring wing to play with Vinny Lecavalier.

On defense, a mentor for 18-year-old draft choice Victor Hedman is a good idea, and fellow Swede Mattias Ohlund might fit the bill. He plays a dependable two-way game and, with 105 penalty minutes, brings some muscle.

Keep Matt Walker in mind, too. The 28-year-old made just $600,000 last season, is versatile and had a goal, 14 points and 79 penalty minutes in 65 games with the Blackhawks.

Tampa Bay also could go after former Lightning Steve Eminger, who as Lawton predicted when Eminger was traded to the Panthers, is free after not getting a qualifying offer.

Cory Murphy, valuable last season on the power play, likely is not in Tampa Bay's plans.

As for goalies, Ty Conklin deserves a look.

Up front, there were whispers last year the Lightning was after Marian Hossa, and he is available again. A more financially reasonable option is Chad LaRose, who had 19 goals last season for the Hurricanes and was a thorn in the Lightning's side.

"We're not looking to make any big splashes," Lawton said. "Slow and steady."

Top forwards

Player Team Age G A PIM 2008-09 salary

Marian Gaborik Wild 27 13 10 2 $7.5 million

Great skills, but right wing can't stay healthy.

Martin Havlat Blackhawks 28 29 48 30 $6 million

Right wing had career highs in assists, points and plus-29.

Marian Hossa Red Wings 30 40 31 63 $7.45 million

Right wing would look good at right wing on a line with Vinny Lecavalier.

Daniel Sedin Canucks 28 31 51 36 $3.575 million

Left wing led Vancouver in goals the past three seasons.

Henrik Sedin Canucks 28 22 60 48 $3.575 million

Center led Vancouver in assists the past four seasons.

Top defensemen

Player Team Age G A PIM 2008-09 salary

Francois Beauchemin Ducks 29 4 1 12 $1.65 million

Plays 25 minutes a night.

Mike Komisarek Canadiens 27 2 9 121 $1.9 million

Doesn't have the offensive skills Lightning needs from the back line.

Scott Niedermayer Ducks 35 14 45 70 $6.75 million

Way too pricey for Tampa Bay.

Mattias Ohlund Canucks 32 6 19 105 $3.5 million

Plays the kind of rugged game Tampa Bay needs.

Rob Scuderi Penguins 30 1 15 18 $725,000

Is plus-29 in his past three seasons, second on the team.

Top goalies

Player Team Age W L OL GAA Sv. Pct. 2008-09 salary

Craig Anderson Panthers 28 15 7 5 2.71 .924 $575,000

The price is right for a backup.

Scott Clemmensen Devils 31 25 13 1 2.39 .917 $500,000

After holding the seat for Martin Brodeur, probably wants a No. 1 job.

Ty Conklin Red Wings 33 25 11 2 2.51 .909 $750,000

Reasonably priced and experienced.

Robert Esche St. Petersburg (Russia) 31 21 14 6 1.87 .912 NA

Badly wants back in the NHL.

Nikolai Khabibulin Blackhawks 36 25 8 7 2.33 .919 $6.75 million

Every year, there are rumors Tampa Bay wants him back.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning, rest of NHL start shopping today 06/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 6:44am]

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