1. Lightning

Glut of goaltenders gives Lightning options

Published May 11, 2014

Did you know the Lightning never has developed a No. 1 goaltender?

It has tried. From the team's first draft in 1992 to 2009, Tampa Bay selected 18 goalies, including Riku Helenius 15th overall in 2006.

From that group, only eight played a combined 109 games for the Lightning: 48 by Karri Ramo and one by Helenius, whose contract this season was terminated.

This is noteworthy because Tampa Bay, with the signing last week of uberprospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, has perhaps its best chance at developing a No. 1.

So much is expected of the 19th overall pick of the 2012 draft that general manager Steve Yzerman believed he had to tap the breaks.

"Let's be cautious and conservative," Yzerman said Tuesday after signing Vasilevskiy to a three-year entry-level deal. "Let's not overhype anything. Let's bring him over and see how he looks, and it'll sort itself out."

Actually, Tampa Bay has a lot of sorting to do, and it is all because of savvy drafting since Al Murray was hired in August 2010 as director of amateur scouting.

The Lightning has drafted three goalies under Murray: Vasilevskiy, Kristers Gudlevskis (124th overall in 2013) and Adam Wilcox (178th overall in 2011).

Each has a role to play in how Tampa Bay configures next season's goaltending.

About the only certainty is Ben Bishop will be the No. 1, assuming his recovery from last month's ligament surgery on his right wrist goes as expected.

After that, the variations are numerous.

• Tampa Bay could re-sign potential restricted free agent Anders Lindback to remain the backup and have Vasilevskiy and Gudlevskis share duties at AHL Syracuse, which would give both valuable experience. The kids also would be in Syracuse if the Lightning decides to go with a different veteran backup.

• The Lightning could use either Vasilevskiy or Gudlevskis as Bishop's backup. Vasilevskiy certainly has been impressive playing against men in Europe's KHL. And Yzerman said that despite the small sample size, Gudlevskis, 21, the first goalie to play in the ECHL, AHL, NHL and Olympics in the same season, showed enough to at least get into the conversation as a possible No. 2.

• Add Wilcox, 21, and things get even more complicated. But the University of Minnesota sophomore — a finalist this season for the Mike Richter Award, given to collegiate hockey's top goalie — might see the glut and determine his best chance for playing time right now is at school.

• Don't discount the possibility of Yzerman using one of his goaltending chips in a trade. In fact, Gudlevskis might be trade bait if the team wants Vasilevskiy as Bishop's backup and Wilcox under contract.

That's quite a difference from the barren wasteland that had been Tampa Bay goaltending. Remember, this is a team that has used 20 goalies since Nikolai Khabibulin led it to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship.

"We've got to sort out our goaltending," Yzerman said.

What a nice problem to have.


  1. Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock reacts as his team plays the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Toronto. NATHAN DENETTE  |  AP
    The struggling Maple Leafs are 9-10-4 this season. Sheldon Keefe, coach of the AHL Toronto Marlies, takes over.
  2. The Lightning were making progress in four good games but turned the puck over too much against St. Louis
  3. Nikita Kucherov left Tuesday's game in the second period but is expected to return to the lineup as soon as Thursday. Tampa Bay Times
    The reigning Hart Trophy winner left Tuesday’s loss to St. Louis after a big hit from Brayden Schenn
  4. St. Louis Blues' Ivan Barbashev looks for a shot past Tampa Bay Lightning's Victor Hedman during the second period of an NHL game Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in St. Louis. JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP
    The reigning MVP left the game late in the second period and did not return.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning's Pat Maroon (14) is unable to score past St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington and Mackenzie MacEachern (28) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in St. Louis. JEFF ROBERSON  |  AP
    Maroon helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup last season. On Tuesday night in St. Louis, they took what is usually a private ceremony and went public for a hometown hero.
  6. New Jersey Devils' Nico Hischier, right, (13) defends Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) during the second period of a game Oct. 30 in Newark, N.J. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    Stamkos has not missed a game since April 2017.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) before an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Tampa Bay’s second-year defenseman is primed to take on an even bigger role.
  8. Long faces dominate some of the remaining Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans during the fourth quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 17, 2019, in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What remaining game will Tampa Bay be favored to win?
  9. The Lightning hosted 5,000 middle school students at Friday's practice. Courtesy of Everfi
    Slap Shots: Plus, thoughts on the Hockey Hall of Fame, a scary moment in Calgary and Military Appreciation Night.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Victor Hedman calls the milestone “an unreal accomplishment by an unreal player.”